LIABILITY & LEGAL ASPECTS (Lesson 20 of 28)
There are two types of defamation: libel and slander. Civil Code Section 45 defines libel. Libel is written and slander is spoken. “Libel is 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 obloquy, or which causes him to be shunned or avoided, or which has a tendency to injure him in his occupation.”
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. (Civil Code section 45a.)
Slander is established in Civil Code Section 46.
Slander is a false and unprivileged publication, orally uttered, and also communications by radio or any mechanical or other means which:
- Charges any person with crime, or with having been indicted, convicted, or punished for crime;
- Imputes in him the present existence of an infectious, contagious, or loathsome disease;
- 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;
- Imputes to him impotence or a want of chastity; or
- Which, by natural consequence, causes actual damage.
Truth is always a defense to any defamation action. Thus, if the horrible statement, though injurious, happens to be true, then there is no liability for defamation.