LAW OF TORTSDefamationINTRODUCTION
Defamation is an invasion of the interest in reputation of a person or a group of persons resultingfrom libel or slander. (Cal.Civ.Code § 44)Libel is a false and unprivileged publication by writing, printing, picture, effigy, or other fixedrepresentation to the eye, which exposes any person to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or disgrace, or which causes such party to be shunned or avoided, or which has a tendency to injure such partyin such party's occupation. (Cal.Civ.Code § 45)Slander is a false and unprivileged publication made orally either in person or by radio or television or by any other means which charges any person with crime, or with having beenindicted, convicted, or punished for crime, imputes to a party the present existence of aninfectious, contagious, or loathsome disease, tends directly to injure a party in respect to suchperson's office, profession, trade or business, either by imputing to such party generaldisqualification in those respects which the office or other occupation peculiarly requires, or byimputing something with reference to the office, profession, trade, or business that has a naturaltendency to lessen its profits, imputes to such person impotence or a want of chastity and bynatural consequence, causes actual damage. (Cal.Civ.Code § 46)
DEFAMATION--LIBEL PER SE
A written statement is defamatory on its face if the natural and probable effect on the averagereader is to defame the plaintiff without the necessity of considering the surroundingcircumstances. (Cal.Civ.Code § 45a)An oral statement is defamatory on its face if it charged plaintiff with a crime imputes in plaintiff the present existence of an infectious, contagious, or loathsome disease tends directly to injureplaintiff in respect to his her office, profession, trade or business, either by imputing to him her general disqualification in those respects which the office or other occupation peculiarly requires,or by imputing something with reference to his or her office, profession, trade or business that hasa natural tendency to lessen its profits imputes to him or her impotence or want of chastity.If a statement is not defamatory on its face, but nonetheless under all circumstances isdefamatory, plaintiff must establish that he or she has sustained special damages in order to alsorecover general damages.
A published opinion is not defamatory unless it conveys to the recipient a provably false assertionof a fact or facts. Whether such an interpretation was conveyed is a question of fact. If such aninterpretation was not conveyed, the expression or statement, though published, does notconstitute defamation.
LIBEL/SLANDER-EFFECT ON AVERAGE READER OR LISTENER
The defamatory nature of a false and unprivileged publication must be determined by the naturaland probable effect of the publication on the mind of the average reader or listener.Consequently, if the average reader or listener would regard it as a defamatory publication it maybe libelous or slanderous on its face even though it is also susceptible of innocent meaning.
A "publication" of defamatory matter is its communication to a person other than the plaintiff, whounderstands its defamatory meaning and its application to the plaintiff. To be a publication, thecommunication also must be made intentionally or negligently.