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Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Ind. Decisions - "Court says IU South Bend professor who filed suit wasn't defamed: IU found another professor responsible for plagiarism"

Peter Aghimien and Mable Aghimien v. Mark Fox, an August 10, 2016 NFP Court of appeals decision that the ILB briefly summarized at the time, is the subject of a long, interesting story today in the South Bend Tribune, reported by Margaret Fosmoe. A sample, but you will need to read it in the context of the whole story:

His name cleared of the cloud of plagiarism, [Peter] Aghimien and his wife, Mabel Aghimien, in 2014 filed a civil lawsuit against [Mark] Fox, alleging defamation, interference with business relationship, infliction of emotional distress and loss of consortium.

In December 2015, Judge Michael G. Gotsch of St. Joseph Circuit Court granted Fox summary judgment in the case. He ruled that Fox's emails and blog posts were not defamatory, because there was evidence that plagiarism had occurred and Fox's allegations had merit.

Gotsch also said the standard for a defamation finding requires evidence of malice, and that the plaintiff failed to show that Fox made the allegation with malice. By creating the blog and providing sources that could lead a reader to believe his own presumption, Fox was able to demonstrate his claims while not expressing an opinion, the judge wrote.

It is obvious that Fox made "snarky, obnoxious, and critical comments" in his email, but he wrote the comments to make a contentious point about the management and direction of the accounting department, Gotsch wrote.

The Aghimiens appealed the case, and the Indiana Court of Appeals in August affirmed the lower court ruling in favor of Fox. The Indiana Supreme Court in December declined to hear the case, so the ruling stands.

Claims of professional misconduct at a state university are a matter of public concern, so the actual malice standard applies in the case, the Appeals Court said. It appears that in the email Fox sent, he was expressing a good-faith opinion about what he viewed as misconduct, the court concluded. And the Aghimiens didn't provide any countervailing evidence to indicate that Fox falsely or recklessly accused Aghimien of plagiarism.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 4, 2017 11:29 AM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions