I want to say a few things, and would prefer to do so in private. But he won't talk to me. If I go ahead and say these things anyway somewhere where they will probably be overheard by others present, does that make me vulnerable to a suit? I would be speaking to him in a normal tone of voice, not shouting or intentionally speaking to anyone else. But, we would not be alone, and I expect it would be inevitable that we would be overheard by at least a couple of people he knows unless he is willing to have a private conversation. What would he have to 'prove' for such a case?
Yes, he could sue you. However, truth is an absolute defense.
The words constituting a libel or slander must be specifically identified, if not pleaded verbatim. Silicon Knights, Inc. v. Crystal Dynamics, Inc., 983 F.Supp. 1303, 1314 (N.D.Cal.1997) (holding that plaintiff’s narrative discourse failed to comply with the court’s order in granting leave to amend to “concisely and specifically” state facts as to the alleged defamatory statements as to each named defendant.)
California Civil Code 45 provides that: “A libel which is defamatory of the plaintiff without the necessity of explanatory matter, such as an inducement, innuendo or other extrinsic fact, is said to be a libel on its face. Defamatory language not libelous on its face is not actionable unless the plaintiff alleges and proves that he has suffered special damage as a proximate result thereof. Special damage is defined in Section 48a of this code.”
As to slander, California Civil Code 46 provides that: “Slander is a false and unprivileged publication, orally uttered, and also communications by radio or any mechanical or other means which:
1. Charges any person with crime, or with having been indicted, convicted, or punished for crime;
2. Imputes in him the present existence of an infectious, contagious, or loathsome disease;
3. Tends directly to injure him in respect to his office, profession, trade or business, either by imputing to him general disqualification in those respects which the office or other occupation peculiarly requires, or by imputing something with reference to his office, profession, trade, or business that has a natural tendency to lessen its profits;
4. Imputes to him impotence or a want of chastity; or
5. Which, by natural consequence, causes actual damage.”
In Scott v. Solano County Health and Social Services Department (2006) 459 F.Supp.2d 959, the court explained that: “Under California law, the defamatory statement must be specifically identified, and the plaintiff must plead the substance of the statement. Jacobson v. Schwarzenegger, 357 F.Supp.2d 1198, 1216 (C.D.Cal.2004).
The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author (who is only admitted to practice law in the State of California). For specific advice about your particular situation, consult your own attorney.
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