Intra Conspiracy Doctrine

Intra Conspiracy Doctrine Attorney

Introduction

When the act of defamation is committed as a conspiracy by an institution as well as its employees, or among the employees against another institution or individual working in the same institution, it is referred to as  Corporate Conspiracy. Such an offence can have major repercussions due to the malicious intent of the employee/institution involved. The statement passed directly damages the reputation of the individual in the entire organization; therefore, this is dealt with under Defamation law.

Defamation caused as conspiracy by an organization and/or its employees leads to a lot of negative publicity for the victim. This is often observed in corporations where groups or individuals conspire defamation to disturb the victim’s livelihood or to deter their overall progress in the organization.

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Liability

The Intra Conspiracy Doctrine serves as a protection from liability. Organizations often use this doctrine to relieve themselves from any kind of liability. This is due to the declaration of the court that an organization, as an entity, cannot defame itself; in the sense that employees are the operative force of an organization hence they are the agents causing defamation and when one employee defames another, it translates into the company defaming itself – thereby cancelling liability.

However, when statement is made outside the scope of the organization and employment terms, the employee is liable to be charged under defamation law.

The liability terms under this doctrine can be better explained by the Court opinion found in (McAndrew v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 2000) – “…under the conspiracy doctrine law, a company may not be held liable when its employees, when acting within the scope of their employment, conspire to defame another who is also an employee of the same company. In essence, a company may not defame itself.

Other Noteworthy Lawsuit Involving Intra Conspiracy Doctrine

Grider v. City of Auburn (1983)

In this well-known lawsuit, the plaintiff charged a number of city officials as well as law enforcement officials alleging malicious conspiracy in an attempt to cause prosecution for bribery. The evidence revealed the involvement of one of the officials in another’s charge against the plaintiff for bribery. However, the court cited the Intra Conspiracy Doctrine to rule that the involvement of both the officials was not chargeable.

The court further observed that both the officers were under the law enforcement wing of the same police department as well as the absence of outsiders in the alleged conspiracy for defamation in order to falsely prosecute the plaintiff for bribery. The contention of violation of constitutional rights was rejected as a function related to employment and within the scope of the defendant’s employment.

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Exceptions to the Doctrine

Following a 1985 lawsuit, the Eleventh Circuit Court described three exceptions to the Intra Conspiracy Doctrine. These exceptions have been considered in all successive cases involving the doctrine:

  • Convictions that involved criminal conspiracy charges
  • Unconstitutional acts wherein the employee has an independent personal stake
  • Wherein employees have engaged in a number of discriminatory acts over a time period as opposed to singular action