Mississippi Court of Appeals Reverses Defamation Judgment Arising Out of Workplace Vulgarity
By Paul V. Esposito
In a split decision, the Court ruled that a physician’s vulgar comments about a surgical scheduler made outside her presence did not amount to actionable defamation. Fagan v. Faulkner, 2023 Miss. App. LEXIS 138 (4/11/23). Physicians’ vulgarity followed scheduler’s refusal to rearrange surgery times to allow for physician’s use of preferred equipment. The common law distinguishes between defamatory comments and verbal abuses. The majority ruled that in context, the vulgarity was not directed towards scheduler’s professional abilities—a needed element for the scheduler’s claim. The words used had no connection to the scheduler’s professional world. The dissent argued that sufficient evidence existed connecting vulgarity to scheduler’s job.