1702. Defamation per se—Essential Factual Elements (Private Figure—Matter of Public Concern)

Plaintiff claims that Defendant harmed him/her by making one or more of the following statements: list all claimed per se defamatory statements. To establish this claim, Plaintiff must prove all of the following:

Liability

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 these people reasonably understood the statements to mean that insert ground(s) for defamation per se, e.g., “Plaintiff had committed a crime”;

4. That the statements were false; and

5. That Defendant failed to use reasonable care to determine the truth or falsity of the statements.

Actual Damages

If Plaintiff has proved all of the above, then he/she is entitled to recover his/her actual damages if he/she proves that Defendant’s wrongful conduct was a substantial factor in causing any of the following:

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.

Assumed Damages

If Plaintiff has not proved any actual damages for harm to reputation or shame, mortification, or hurt feelings but proves by clear and convincing evidence that Defendant knew the statements were false or that he/she had serious doubts about the truth of the statements, then the law assumes that

Plaintiff’s reputation has been harmed and that he/she has suffered shame, mortification, or hurt feelings. Without presenting evidence of damage, Plaintiff is entitled to receive compensation for this assumed harm in whatever sum you believe is reasonable. You must award at least a nominal sum, such as one dollar.

Punitive Damages

Plaintiff may also recover damages to punish Defendant if he/she proves by clear and convincing evidence that Defendant either knew the statements were false or had serious doubts about the truth of the statements, and that he/she acted with malice, oppression, or fraud.