Varian Med. Sys., Inc. v. Delfino, 113 Cal. App. 4th 273, 6 Cal.Rptr.3d 325 (2003)

Varian and two of its executives, George Zdasiuk and Susan B. Felch, sued two former employees, Michelangelo Delfino and Mary Day, after Delfino and Day used Internet bulletin boards to post more than 13,000 derogatory messages about Varian and the two executives. Among other things, Delfino (whose employment Varian terminated) posted derogatory messages about Varian’s stock price and its products, accused Felch of being a “manipulative liar” or a “neurotic hallucinator” and accused both Zdasiuk and Felch of being “incompetent” and “chronic liars.” Many of Delfino’s messages contained sexual implications, including messages implying that Felch had attained her position by having sex with a supervisor. At trial, the jury found Delfino and Day liable for defamation (libel), invasion of privacy, breach of contract and conspiracy and also determined that Delfino and Day had acted with malice, fraud or oppression. The jury awarded $425,000 in general damages and $350,000 in punitive damages. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment except with respect to the trial court’s entry of an injunction prohibiting certain future communications by Delfino and Day on the ground that such a prohibition was an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech.