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Intra-Corporate Immunity, Defamation

Defamation generally consists of a (1) publication, (2) a defamatory statement, that (3) identifies the plaintiff, that is (4) false, that is (5) published with the requisite degree of fault and (6) damages to the plaintiff’s reputation. Nazeri v. Missouri Valley College, 860 S.W.2d 303 (Mo. banc 1993).

The publication must be to a third-person. Perez v. Boatmen’s Nat’l Bank, 788 S.W.2d 296, 300 (Mo. Ct. App. 1990). In the context of a business, repitition of a defamatory statement will not constitute publication when the business is merely communicating with itself. Id. Specifically, the intra-corporate immunity rule provides that “communications between officers of the same corporation in the due and regular course of the corporate business, or between different offices of the same corporation, are not publications to third persons.” Hellesen v. Knaus Truck Lines, Inc., 370 S.W.2d 341, 344 (Mo. 1963). What makes this a little confusing is that a corporation or limited liability company is generally considered a separate statutory owner or entity distinct from its owners — but not for purposes of defamation.

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