Maryland High Court Adopts Less Demanding Standard to Prove Malice in Purely Private Defamation Cases
The Maryland Court of Appeals held for the first time that the standard of proof for overcoming a common law conditional privilege in purely private defamation cases is preponderance of the evidence. Seley-Radtke v. Hosmane, No. 19 (Md. Nov. 22, 2016).
In Maryland, a common law conditional privilege includes, as in this case, speech between members of an identifiable community who share a common interest. Speech made in this setting can be a defense to defamation, and the plaintiff can overcome it only by proving the speaker acted with malice. The court considered whether the plaintiff had to prove malice by a preponderance of the evidence – as 10 other states have found – or by clear and convincing evidence – as 8 other states have found.