actual malice defamation

The above maxim is so often repeated that it is taken as true in all cases. But chapter 231, section 92 of the Massachusetts General Laws says otherwise, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Noonan v. Staples, No. 07-2159 (1st Cir. Feb. 13, 2009), rehearing and rehearing en banc denied (1st Cir. Mar. 19, 2009). Section 92 provides in its entirety as follows: "The defendant in an action for writing or for publishing a libel may introduce in evidence the truth of the matter contained in the publication charged as libellous; and the truth shall be a justification unless actual malice is proved."

Construing Section 92 in a defamation action brought by a discharged employee, the appeals court concluded that "Massachusetts law … recognizes a narrow exception to [the defense of truth]: the truth or falsity of the statement is immaterial, and the libel action may proceed, if the plaintiff can show that the defendant acted with ‘actual malice" in publishing the statement.’