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Reuber v. Food Chemical News, Inc.
United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
925 F.2d 703 (1991)
Melvin Reuber (plaintiff) worked at the Frederick Cancer Research Center (the Frederick Center), which was a private institution affiliated with a government agency, the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Reuber entered himself into the public controversy surrounding the use of malathion, a pesticide, by conducting and sharing his own research and engaging in other behavior that was misleading because it falsely suggested the NCI no longer believed that malathion was noncarcinogenic. A letter of reprimand issued by Reuber’s supervisor was published by a news organization, Food Chemical News, Inc. (defendant). The letterhead stated that the Frederick Center was operated by another company for the NCI. The letter asserted Reuber improperly presented himself as operating under NCI authority and implied that a reason for Reuber’s discipline was his undermining of public trust in the NCI. Reuber sued Food Chemical News in federal court, and a judgment for defamation and invasion of privacy was entered in his favor. Food Chemical News appealed. Reuber argued against applying a fair-report privilege because the letter of reprimand was the action of a private entity, not a government action.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Wilkinson, J.)
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