Arthaud v. Mutual of Omaha Ins. Co.

170 F.3d 860 (1999)

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Arthaud v. Mutual of Omaha Ins. Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
170 F.3d 860 (1999)

Facts

G. Dean Arthaud (plaintiff) worked as a general manager for Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company (Mutual) (defendant). One day while in a sales meeting with other managers, Arthaud’s supervisor terminated his employment, accusing Arthaud of engaging in sales tactics that were inappropriate and of violating Mutual’s policy regarding conflicts of interest. These were very damaging accusations in the financial industry. Arthaud asked for a service letter, which listed the same reasons for his termination. In seeking new employment, Arthaud disclosed to prospective employers the reasons for his termination listed in the service letter from Mutual. Arthaud was rejected for several positions before securing a new job. Arthaud filed an action against Mutual for compelled self-defamation. At trial, Arthaud testified to his difficulty in finding another job, which he attributed to the false statements in the service letter. Arthaud did not offer evidence to show that potential employers relied on the statements in the service letter; rather, he inferred that given his age and qualifications, he would have secured a position sooner were it not for the false statement in the letter. Indeed, a jury found that Mutual’s stated reasons for terminating Arthaud were merely to cover up that the company was downsizing. The jury awarded Arthaud $175,000 in actual and punitive damages. Mutual appealed, alleging Arthaud had not demonstrated actual damages. Mutual claimed that Arthaud had provided no evidence that the prospective employers who did not hire him had relied on the false claims in the service letter in choosing not to employ him.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Wollman, J.)

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