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Alternate Fuels, Inc. v. Cabanas

ELR Citation: 36 ELR 20016
Nos. Nos. 04-4073, 05-1077, (8th Cir., 01/23/2006)

The court holds that the employee of a state environmental agency is not shielded from liability under Missouri's absolute privilege doctrine in a case alleging tortious interference with a contract. The operator of a surface coal mining and reclamation project filed suit against the state employee after the employee told one of the operator's potential customers that the sale of microscopic coal particles would require a permit change, which would "never happen" as long as he was working for the agency. The employee claimed he was shielded from liability under the absolute privilege doctrine because he was acting within the scope of his official duties. But the employee did not have the authority to make decisions regarding permit transfers, and the agency supported the contract and likely would have approved the transfer. The employee, therefore, was not acting within the scope of his official duties and is not entitled to an absolute privilege for making a false statement.