Hohmann v. Gtech Corp.
A vice president of a company that manufactures lottery tickets can be entitled to a qualified privilege with respect to a defamation claim in connection with his participation in an official investigation of lottery fraud. In 2007, Gregory Hohmann operated a business that sold lottery tickets. The Hohmanns purchased a ticket from their own business, signed it and presented it to a claims center. A lottery ticket with seven dots on the dice was worth a $1 million jackpot. The Hohmanns' ticket had four dots on one and three dots on the other, although the word "two" allegedly was written under the three dots. The Connecticut Lottery Corp. and the Division of Special Revenue investigated. William Miller, the vice president of GTech Printing Corp., which manufactured the "winning" lottery ticket, opined that the lottery ticket had been altered. A hearing officer accepted William Miller's statement that the Hohmanns' lottery ticket was a "forgery" and recommended revocation of the lottery ticket license for Hohmanns' business. The Gaming Policy Board affirmed. The Hohmanns sued William Miller and GTech Printing Corp., alleging that they published a written statement indicating the "winning" lottery ticket was fraudulent. The District Court found that Miller's statements, which were elicited by the Connecticut Lottery Corp. and the Division of Special Revenue during the official investigation, were entitled to a qualified privilege. To prevail on defamation when a qualified privilege exists, a plaintiff must establish a statement was issued with actual malice, which requires proof of actual knowledge or reckless disregard with respect to whether the statement was false. The Hohmanns' complaint did not allege that Miller issued the statement knowing it was false, or with reckless disregard about whether it was false. Allegations that Miller was reckless with respect to the consequences of the statement were insufficient to allege he was reckless with respect to the truth of the statement. Claims that Miller should have known that his statement was false also were insufficient to allege reckless disregard. The Hohmanns failed to allege actual malice or malice in fact, and the court granted judgment to the defendants.