John Erickson worked for insurance agency Marsh & McLennan (M & M). According to Erickson, M & M fabricated allegations of sexual discrimination against him and terminated him from M & M. While seeking employment with other insurance agencies, the prospective employers asked M & M why Erickson had been terminated. M & M responded that Erickson did not have the level of expertise required for their clients, but that he had general knowledge of commercial insurance and was well known among the insurance markets. Erickson (plaintiff) sued M & M (defendant), claiming that M & M’s responses to potential employers were libelous. The trial court ruled that M & M’s responses to Erickson’s potential employers were subject to a qualified privilege, and instructed the jury that in order to overcome that privilege, Erickson needed to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that M & M acted with actual malice. The trial jury found in favor of Erickson. The Appellate Division reversed, and entered judgment in favor of M & M. Erickson appealed.