Nazeri at 314 (citations omitted). Nevertheless, a Missouri appellate court has since held that generally any statement preceded by a phrase such as "it is my position" or "it is my belief" or other cautionary phrases are, as a matter of law, opinion. Pape v. Reither, 918 S.W.2d 376, 380 (Mo. Ct. App. 1996). "Put plainly, it is impossible to interpret statements preceded by such cautionary lanugage as positing a verifiable proposition, and verifiability is the crux of the fact/opinion distinction in defamation law." Pape at 380-81. The Pape court also held that "[a] statement must be verifiable at the time it is issued in order to be one of fact." Id. at 381.

In State ex. rel. Diehl v. Kintz, 162 S.W.3d 152 (Mo. Ct. App. 2005), the Missouri Court of Appeals, while recognizing that the U.S. Supreme Court "has rejected the notion that there is a wholesale defamation exception for anything that might be labeled opinion" as a matter of federal constitutional law, held that "a statement may only suggest to the ordinary reader that the defendant disagrees with the plaintiff's conduct and used pejorative statements or vituperative language to express this disapproval. ... 'Courts should also examine the statements themselves to determine whether they are too imprecise.'" Id. at 155, quoting Henry v. Halliburton, 690 S.W.2d 775, 789 (Mo. 1985) (en banc).

See the general page on fair comment and opinion for details on the standards and terminology mentioned in this subsection.

Other Privileges
Missouri follows the "witness immunity" rule that witness statements made in litigation are absolutely privileged from defamation actions. Mershon v. Beasley, 994 F.2d 449, 454 (8th Cir. 1993).

Add comment

Security code