1701. Defamation per quod—Essential Factual Elements (Public Officer/Figure and Limited Public Figure)

Plaintiff claims that Defendant harmed him/her by making one or more of the following statements: list all claimed per quod defamatory statements.

Liability

To establish this claim, Plaintiff must prove that all of the following are more likely true than not true:

1. That Defendant made one or more of the statements to persons other than Plaintiff;

2. That these people reasonably understood that the statements were about Plaintiff;

3. That because of the facts and circumstances known to the listeners/readers of the statements, they tended to injure Plaintiff in his/her occupation or to expose him/her to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or shame and/or to discourage others from associating or dealing with him/her;

4. That the statements were false;

5. That Plaintiff suffered harm to his/her property, business, profession, or occupation including money spent as a result of the statements; and

6. That the statements were a substantial factor in causing Plaintiff’s harm.

In addition, Plaintiff must prove by clear and convincing evidence that Defendant knew the statements were false or had serious doubts about the truth of the statements.

Actual Damages

If Plaintiff has proved all of the above, then he/she is entitled to recover if he/she proves it is more likely true than not true that Defendant’s wrongful conduct was a substantial factor in causing any of the following actual damages:

a. Harm to Plaintiff’s property, business, trade, profession, or occupation;

b. Expenses Plaintiff had to pay as a result of the defamatory statements;

c. Harm to Plaintiff’s reputation; or

d. Shame, mortification, or hurt feelings.

Punitive Damages

Plaintiff may also recover damages to punish Defendant if he/she proves by clear and convincing evidence that Defendant acted with malice, oppression, or fraud.

Comments

Instruction 1701 is used for defamation per quod, which means that the statements need some explanation to show why they are defamatory to plaintiff. The above instructions are for a public figure or a limited public figure, while the following are for a private figure. Note that for defamation per quod for a public figure or a limited public figure requires plaintiff to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant knew the statements were false or had serious doubts about the truth of the statements, but item number 2 for defamation per se for a private figure requires just that the defendant failed to use reasonable care to determine the truth or falsity of the statements (CACI 1702, item 5 under Liability).