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Although we only practice law in California, you may find the following summary of libel and slander law useful. I strongly suggest you contact a local attorney for detailed legal analysis and discussion about whether or not you have a legal case that should be pursued.
What Constitutes Libel and Slander in California?
As you may already know, to be deemed libelous under California Civil Code Section 45, the defamatory statement must constitute a false and unprivileged publication by writing, printing, picture, effigy, or other fixed representation to the eye, which exposes any person to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or disgrace, or which causes a person to be shunned or avoided, or which has a tendency to inure a person in his or her occupation. Although not indicated in the statute, case law in California also requires a plaintiff to plead and prove the requisite degree of fault.
If not defamatory on its face, a plaintiff is required to plead and prove special damages. If the statement is libelous per se, the court will presume general damages and special damages need not be shown. The test for libel per se is whether a defamatory meaning appears from the language itself without the necessity of explanation or the pleading of extrinsic facts.
Libel per quod issues may exist (a reader is able to recognize a defamatory meaning only by virtue of his or her knowledge of specific facts and circumstances extrinsic to the publication, which are not common knowledge).
Slander (in California)
Slander is a false and unprivileged publication, orally uttered and communicated by radio or any other means, which charges or imputes that a person has committed a crime, has an infectious or loathsome disease, or is important or unchaste, or which tens to directly injure a person's business or professional reputation, or which causes, by natural consequence, actual damage. See California Civil Code Section 46.
If the slander is per se (no additional information is needed to understand the slanderous meaning), then damages are presumed. In this instance, a plaintiff may recover for hurt feelings, mental suffering, and humiliation without proving any out of pocket loss. If not defamatory on its face, the plaintiff must plead and prove its defamatory meaning.
Related causes of action might include libel, slander, trade libel, slander of title, false light, publication of private facts, intrusion, fraud, deceit emotional distress. In California, the statute of limitations is one year from the date the defamatory matter is published. (Civil Code 340(3). Governmental claims must be properly presented without six months after the accrual of the cause of action per Gov Code Section 911.2. The public entity then has 45 days to respond.
The above information is provided for discussion purposes only. Jackson & Wilson, Inc. and its attorneys believe in helping people and answering their questions and providing information and solutions. To encourage and facilitate this practice, it is understood and agreed by the recipient that by opening, reading and viewing this information, no attorney-client relationship has been discussed, agreed to or otherwise established. In legal matters, time is of the essence. As such, you should contact an experienced lawyer right away to protect your legal rights!
Jon Mitchell "Mitch" Jackson
Jackson & Wilson, Inc.
An "AV" rated firm listed in Martindale-Hubbell's Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers
You may want to contact Texas lawyer,Marc Christopher Lenahan, for more information and possible representation.
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