Use Pure Opinion

Because pure opinion is not defamatory, it is a powerful tool for making defamation-resistant statements. See Pure opinions are not defamatory for details about how pure opinion works.

Here are four specific techniques for using pure opinion to craft statements that are both effective and lawsuit-resistant (remember, no statement is lawsuit-proof).

Make a value judgment, not a factual statement

It is very tempting to discuss the details of what someone did wrong. Giving details helps your community understand the situation and provides context for any additional action you are taking. But making specific allegations can expose you to liability if the fact pattern isn’t absolutely certain. Your best course of action may be to offer an opinion about the situation in general rather than making specific allegations.

Higher risk: We are firing Morgan because they injured three students.
Lower risk: We are firing Morgan because we feel they do not meet our safety standards.

Emphasize the uncertainty

It may be safer to express your concerns as a lack of confidence that conduct was appropriate, rather than a statement that conduct was definitely inappropriate:

Higher risk: We are firing Morgan because of their pattern of causing injuries.
Lower risk: We are firing Morgan because we lack confidence in their safety practices.

Focus on the response, not the incident

Sometimes the details of an incident are unclear but you have solid information about how someone responded to it. In those cases, it may be best to focus on the response rather than the original incident:

Higher risk: We are firing Morgan because they injured Blair.
Lower risk: We are firing Morgan because they did not respond appropriately to Blair’s injury.

Express an opinion based on true facts

If you are confident about the truth of certain factual claims, an excellent way to present an opinion is to present the facts and express an opinion based on those facts.

Higher risk: We think Morgan is an unsafe teacher.
Lower risk: Because Morgan has injured three students, we think they are an unsafe teacher.


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