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3.11-1  Defamation

Revised to January 1, 2008

The plaintiff alleges that (he/she) was defamed by the defendant.  (Libel/Slander) is a form of defamation.  The plaintiff's claim in this case is based on (libel/slander).   

A defamatory statement is a false communication that tends to harm the reputation of another; to diminish the esteem, respect, goodwill or confidence in which the plaintiff is held; to deter third persons from associating or dealing with (him/her); or to excite adverse, derogatory, or unpleasant feelings or opinions against (him/her).

Statements claimed to be defamatory should be given their ordinary meaning, which is the same meaning that people of common and reasonable understanding would give to them in the context and under all the circumstances that were present at the time they were made.  In determining whether a statement is defamatory, you are not bound by the interpretation of the statement offered by the plaintiff, the defendant or by any person hearing the statement.  If the meaning of the statement is unclear, it is your job as the jury to determine what the meaning of the statement was. 

To establish a case of defamation, the plaintiff must prove the following:

  1. the defendant published a defamatory statement to a third person;

  2. the defamatory statement identified the plaintiff to a third person; and

  3. the plaintiff's reputation suffered injury as a result of the statement.

Publication means to make a statement to another orally, in writing, or by some other means of communication.  The publication of the defamatory information can be done intentionally or negligently, so long as it is done in a manner such that in the ordinary course of events it will come to be communicated to a third person.

Authority

Craig v. Stafford Construction, Inc., 271 Conn. 78, 84 (2004); Cweklinsky v. Mobil Chemical Co., 267 Conn. 210, 217 (2004); Yavis v. Sullivan, 137 Conn. 253, 260 (1950); Gagnon v. Housatonic Valley Tourism Commission, 92 Conn. App. 835, 847-48  (2006); Gambardella v. Apple Health Care, Inc., 86 Conn. App. 842, 848 (2005); Lowe v. Shelton, 83 Conn. App. 750, 765, cert. denied, 271 Conn. 915 (2004); 3 Restatement (Second), Torts § 559, p. 156 (1977); 3 Restatement (Second), Torts § 577, p. 201 (1977).

Notes

The question of whether the plaintiff has established a prima facie case of defamation is one of law.  Gambardella v. Apple Health Care, Inc., 86 Conn. App. 842, 847 (2005).  It is for the judge to determine whether a statement is libel or slander.  Charles Parker Co. v. Silver City Crystal Co., 142 Conn. 605, 610-12 (1955).

Case law traditionally divides defamation into four elements: "(1) the defendant published a defamatory statement; (2) the defamatory statement identified the plaintiff to a third person; (3) the defamatory statement was published to a third person; and (4) the plaintiff's reputation suffered injury as a result of the statement."  See, e.g., Cweklinsky v. Mobil Chemical Co., 267 Conn. 210, 217 (2004).  To avoid duplication, this charge uses only three elements.
 


 

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