What Happens When an Owner Accuses a Board Member or Manager of Defamation?
We recently wrote about community association board members’ attempts to rein in “bad owners” by filing defamation lawsuits against them. But what about when the tables turn, and an owner pursues defamation allegations against board members or managers?
The Michigan Court of Appeals recently upheld a lower court’s dismissal of just such an action, finding the defendants were protected by a qualified privilege. While the court’s opinion was unpublished (meaning it can’t be cited as precedent), it provides a useful illustration of this powerful defense for managers, board members, and associations. Be forewarned, though — the privilege has its limits.
The owner in the case parked a boat and trailer on his premises in violation of the association’s bylaws. After the association sued him, seeking an order that he remove the boat and trailer, he counter-sued the association, some board members, the management company, and the company’s employee who managed the community.
Among other things, he claimed the management company, its employee, and a board member made several false allegations and defamatory statements intended to destroy his reputation and professional standing. The alleged statements included announcing at a board meeting that he had a gun, was violent, and was going to harm someone. The trial court dismissed the case before trial, and the owner appealed.
Learn how the case turned out, and why qualified privilege — while potentially helpful — isn’t a failsafe life preserver: