Pl - Lent
The Pl -
worked for Huntoon Business machines for 13 years.
The Pl told
the Df he was moving to Florida and would train his successor.
thereafter, the Df fired the Pl without notice.
own equipment business, mainly cash register sales and service.
He was now
in competition with Huntoon
Written Libel Conduct
letter cash register franchise customers, saying Lent was
discharged for sound business reasons.
Oral Slander Conduct
had a criminal record a mile long.
merchandize and money.
caused Pl to become estranged from customers.
never a complaint concerning Lent before he was terminated.
Lent was leaving and he was not fired.
continued to make statement about Lent even after Lent asked him
is composed of libel and slander
Written and more serious
Oral and less serious.
to be actionable per se.
need not allege nor prove he suffered any special damages
as a direct or proximate result of libel.
damages are presumed.
Loss of customers or business, loss of contracts, or loss of
not actionable per se.
damages are not presumed and must be alleged and proven.
Exceptions to actionable per se, and special damages need not be
[attribution] of a crime,
injurious to one's trade, business or occupation,
having a loathsome disease were deemed slander per se and were
actionable without proof of special damages.
woman to be unchaste.
General Elements of Private Action For Defamation (libel and/or
a false and
defamatory statement concerning another;
negligence, or greater fault, in publishing the statement;
to at least one third person;
privilege in the publication;
damages, unless actionable per se; and
harm so as to warrant compensatory damages.
One the Pl -
evidence was in, the court had to
determine whether the written
or spoken words were defamatory as a matter of
If the court
was in doubt because the connotation of the written or
spoken words was ambiguous, then the court had to
submit the question to the jury
We are talking about economic or pecuniary damages.
Ex: Loss of customers, business, contracts, or employment.
Non Economic or Non Pecuniary damages
Ex: harm to reputation, humiliation, or emotion or mental
Pl could not
recovery any general damages unless he or she could prove
Libel per se
means defamatory as a matter of law which is actionable per se.
all libel is actionable per se,
it makes no difference whether the court rules that the
written words are defamatory as a matter of law, or that
the written words are ambiguous and the jury
determines that there is defamation; in each instance
special damages need not be proven.
writings, however, are seemingly innocent in and of themselves,
and resort must be had to
extrinsic evidence to determine if they have defamatory
writing together with the extrinsic evidence
such a writing is referred to as "libel
per quod" in several American jurisdictions.
jurisdictions require that special damages be proven for libel
per quod, unless the libel falls into one of the slander per se
rule, the simple fact that
extrinsic evidence must be used to prove the defamatory
nature of a libel prevents
it from being "actionable per se" and special damages
must be proven.
Court of Vermont
recognize libel per quod.
We hold that
libel, whether defamatory on the face of the writing
alone or with the aid of extrinsic evidence,
is actionable per se.
decides if a writing is ambiguous or not.
In This Case
action and is a COMPLETE defense.
your own business interest, prof said not on exam)
conditional privilege which may be overcome by a showing of
of proving privilege is on the Df.
defeat malice, however, he must show malice by clear and
his legitimate business interests.
will infer malice upon a
showing that the defendant knew the
statement was false or acted with reckless disregard
of its truth
includes spiteful or wanton conduct
logically be based on some showing of harm to the Pl.
will require defamation Pl - to demonstrate some actual harm as
a prerequisite to recovering general damages.
that is actionable per se will require some showing of actual
harm, but not of special damages before recovery of general, or
(compensatory) damages are established, punitive damages may be
awarded on a showing of actual
malice, but actual malice may not be considered to
enhance compensatory damages.
may be shown by conduct manifesting personal ill will or carried
out under circumstances evidencing insult or oppression, or even
by conduct showing a reckless or wanton disregard of one's
supporting punitive damages may be shown by
proving that the defendant
repeated the defamatory statement, especially when the
repetition occurred after commencement
of the lawsuit.
Ample evidence for the jury to have found actual malice
knew that plaintiff had not been fired "for sound business
reasons" but had, in fact, voluntarily left,
that plaintiff had stolen money and merchandise knowing this to
that plaintiff did not have a "record a mile long," and
repeated the alleged slanderous statements.