Defamation in Law

Topics: Tort, Defamation, Negligence Pages: 6 (1364 words) Published: September 12, 2013

Tort Law

A tort is an act/omission in instances where by law there is a duty owed by one party/entity as against another to do or refrain from doing an act and a failure to comply results in civil liability

To Establish Tort One Must Have:
Duty of Care/Duty being owed
Harm/ Damage caused by that Breach

Difference between Crime and a Tort
Crimes are omissions or acts against the state while a tort is against private entities. Crime- Fine/ Imprisonment while in Tort- Damages/ Injunction.


Defamatory Statements are those which tend to lower one's estimation in the minds of right thinking persons.

There are three constituent elements that one must find before an action towards defamation can be made out.

First the words themselves must be defamatory or capable of defaming the plaintiff.

Secondly the words must refer to the plaintiff.

Thirdly, the words must be published to one other person than the plaintiff.  Therefore the defamatory statements must be exposed to someone other than the plaintiff.

Intermediate liability - the channel which facilitates the defamatory statements may or may not be liable depending on the platforms involvement in endorsing the statement (directly re-quoting the statement)

The law of defamation seeks to protect an entity's or individual's reputation. In doing so the law balances to fundamental rights. On one hand a person is entitled to freedom of speech or expression but this must be curtailed by respect for and recognition of a person's right to a reputation. The concept of one's reputation is not limited to individuals it also includes corporate entities which like individuals through years of service by obtaining certain qualifications or simply by maintaining certain practices can develop a clientele, a reputation that earns significant profit or other benefits which may or may not be tangible.

The law makes a distinction between defamatory statements in a permanent as opposed to transient form. The reason for this is perhaps because theoretically a defamatory statement in a permanent form is more likely to do more harm than one in a temporary form. It is for this reason that libel is actionable per se. What this means is that the plaintiff may not prove damages, rather it is presumed to have occured. This is different from slander which requires proof of damage subject to four exceptions. It is also noteworthy that the defamation act of Jamaica treats defamatory statements made by radio or other broadcasts though spoken as libel not as slander.

The four exceptions to this rule as it relates to slander are: Slander in imputing a disease
Slander affecting one's professional reputation
Slander imputing a crime
Slander imputing impropriety on a woman

Slander in imputing a disease

It is actionable per se to impute or allege that the plaintiff is infected with certain contagious or repulsive diseases. For example Aids, STI's- crabs, syphilis, gonorrhea, leprosy and diseases presumed to be caught/contracted because of unhygienic practices.

The list is not a closed one however there are cases that illustrate what is not a disease that is actionable per se in Murray v Williams the defendant alleged in respect to the plaintiff a shop keeper "that damn long neck consumption coolie man Murray tink is him alone can get truck to trust, but him can't help it him catch the consumption from him wife, every pickney him have catch it, a it deh kill dem out'.

It was held the slander was not actionable per se. consumption referred to tuberculosis and the court was of the view that the rule of exceptions was best limited to  venereal diseases and other contagious diseases within that category or similar to that category.

In deciding whether or not an action or defamation was made out and in particular if it was actionable per se the court had to decide 1. Are the words defamatory
2. Are they actionable without proof of special...
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