WA Court of Appeals at Div. II: Truth still an absolute defense to defamation
The 2006 Crane Accident in Bellevue, where a man was killed in his apartment, spawned a slew of news stories regarding crane safety. One of the stories involved the operator of the crane, Warren Taylor Yeakey, and alleged he had a history of drug abuse. He sued Hearst (operators of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a former print newspaper now exclusively online) for defamation when his drug test came back negative. Does he contend the PI spead anything untruthful (a requirement for defamation)? Not quite:
He argued that the juxtaposition of the article's statements with a photograph of the damage, a photograph of the deceased, and a graphic with bullet points contending "GAPS IN SAFETY CONTROLS" falsely implied that Yeakey's drug use, operator error, or failure to sufficiently perform safety inspections were factors in the collapse. CP at 11. He concedes that all the statements in the articles are true and that his claims are not based on a contention that facts were omitted from the articles.
Unfortunately, Washington only recognizes standard defamation, which means the statements have to be false:
But we have held that a plaintiff may not base a defamation claim on the negative implication of true statements. Lee v. Columbian, Inc., 64 Wn. App. 534, 538, 826 P.2d 217 (1991). Defamatory meaning may not be imputed to true statements. Lee, 64 Wn. App. at 538.
As a side note: I have, through looking for pictures examining truth, learned of Tarski's undefinability theorum. You should give it a read. Philosophy major's already know of Russell's utter destruction of Frege.
You may be wondering why I didn't include links to Tarski or Russell. Simply, a computer glitch that won't let me.