Has a company ever been successfully sued for giving a good reference?

In threads on giving/getting employment references, it’s pretty much always mentioned that a lot of companies will refuse to give any sort of reference for a past employee, beyond start date, end date, and maybe rehire status. The reason given for this is fear of lawsuits - if a company or manager gives a bad reference, they’re worried about being sued by the former employee; if they give a good reference, they’re worried about being sued by the new employer. The first worry I can understand - slander is a well known principle. But the second has always puzzled me. Under what principle of law can you sue someone for giving a good reference, if the referencee turn out to be a dud when you hire them? It’s not slander. Has this ever really happened (successfully, since I know you can file any suit you please), or is it just the diseased imaginings of ultra-cautious corporate lawyers?

Probably the latter, but I could at least imagine that good reference for someone who turns out to be a dud could possibly be interpreted as a kind of fraud – you’ve probably heard about people “they would give a good reference just to get rid of them,” or worse, dump them off on a competitor. I am not a lawyer, though.

If you gave a good reference to someone who you knew had committed professional misconduct, at least in principle the employer relying on the reference could claim damages (negligent referral.

The second problem comes with the fact that if a company prohibits managers from giving negative references but allows positive ones, it is extremely obvious which references are negative ones. In actuality, Target and Wal-Mart, as 2 examples, hire a lot of each others’ former employees. It would be very obvious that there were 2 types of references - positive and none, opening the avenue to complain about undeserved negative references.

This link gives 2 examples of suits resulting from positive or neutral references: http://university.employeescreen.com/articles/employment_verifications At least one was settled in the claimants’ favor.

If you refuse to give A a referance because it would be a bad referance. And you give B a good referance this could be the problem.

A could now sue because not giving him a referance is the same thing as giving him a bad referance. And yes it has happen.