1704. Defamation per se—Essential Factual Elements (Private Figure—Matter of Private 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:


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 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

Even if Plaintiff has not proved any actual damages for harm to reputation or shame, mortification or hurt feelings, the law assumes that he/she has suffered this harm. 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 acted with malice, oppression, or fraud.