Bose Corporation v. Consumers Union Of The United States, Inc.

466 U.S. 485 (1984)


Bose (P) sued Consumers (D) for product disparagement in a review of its speakers that was printed in Consumer Reports. The trial court found that P was a public figure and that P would only recover if it proved actual malice by D (See New York Times Co. v. Sullivan). The court did find that one sentence in the article did contain a false statement of material fact with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard for the truth. The trial court received testimony from an Arnold Seligson, the engineer who supervised the tests and who wrote the report. The lower court concluded that the actual malice determination rested entirely on an evaluation of Seligson's state of mind when he wrote his initial report or when he checked the article against the report. From this evidence, the district court found clear and convincing evidence of malice for defamation. On appeal, the First Circuit held that the actual malice determination was not limited to the clearly erroneous standard of Rule 52(a) but that on appeal a de novo review must be held. The Court of Appeals determined after looking at the record that it was unable to find clear and convincing evidence that D published the statement that individual instruments tended to wander about the room with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard. It reversed the trial court. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.