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Defamation Damages Summarized By Personal Injury Lawyer

The cases below are a compilation of cases on defamation damages from the Virginia Supreme Court summarized by Brien Roche dealing with the topic of defamation damages and the related topic of intentional torts. For more information on defamation see the pages on Wikipedia.
See Va. Code §§ 8.01-46 and 8.01-48 as to mitigation.

Defamation Damages-Cases

1996 Poulston v. Rock, 251 Va. 254, 467 S.E.2d 479.

Defamation damages: defendant accused plaintiff of theft. Jury returned verdict of $10,000 compensatory and $25,000 punitive. Trial court reversed award. Damage award should be reduced if it shocks conscience of court, creating impression that jury was influenced by passion, corruption or prejudice; that jury has misconceived or misunderstood facts or law; or award is so out of proportion to injury suffered as to suggest it is not product of fair and impartial decision. In this instance, where plaintiff proves publication of words actionable per se, he is relieved of necessity of proving quantum of damages for injury to reputation, humiliation, and embarrassment. Trial court failed to consider all relevant factors necessary for proper evaluation of compensatory award and as such remittitur is reversed.

1995 Schnupp v. Smith, 249 Va. 353, 457 S.E.2d 42.

Defamation damages: police officer accused plaintiff of drug activity. Jury awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages. Jury was instructed to compensate plaintiff for any pain, embarrassment, humiliation, and mental suffering and injury to his reputation. Plaintiff had testified at some length as to impact this incident had on his employment and family. Verdict upheld.

1995 Williams v. Garraghty, 249 Va. 224, 455 S.E.2d 209.

Defamation damages: plaintiff claimed personal damages consisting of pain and suffering, humiliation, embarrassment, and mental distress. These were held not to be barred by Workers’ Compensation Act since there was no injury by accident.

1993 Shenandoah Pub’g House v. Gunter, 245 Va. 320, 427 S.E.2d 370.

Defamation damages:in Virginia negligence standard is applicable when private individual brings action based upon defamatory publication and seeks to recover actual, compensatory damages, not presumed damages.

1985 Great Coastal Express, Inc. v. Ellington, 230 Va. 142, 334 S.E.2d 846.

Defamation damages: where punitive damages are awarded, supreme court must make independent determination whether evidence in record is sufficient to support finding of New York Times malice by clear and convincing evidence.

1985 Landmark v. Maccone, 230 Va. 137, 334 S.E.2d 587.

Defamation damages:individual sued in defamation alleging as his sole claim corporation’s contract with another business was not renewed. This does not constitute damage to plaintiff; therefore no basis for claim.

1985 The Gazette, Inc. v. Harris, 229 Va. 1, 325 S.E.2d 713.

On appellate review of punitive damage awards or where New York Times malice must be proven, court must independently decide whether the evidence in the record is sufficient to support a finding of New York Times malice by clear and convincing evidence. Evidence of actual malice was sufficient to support punitive damage award where defendant accused plaintiff of racial prejudice without objective basis for such. Plaintiff experienced no physical manifestation of emotional distress, sought no medical attention and continued to be held in high esteem. Compensatory award in this case bore no reasonable relation to damages, and therefore was excessive as matter of law.

1981 Fleming v. Moore, 221 Va. 884, 275 S.E.2d 632.

Where statement is not slanderous per se and where knowing falsity or reckless disregard of truth is not shown, then compensatory damages should be limited to actual damages which may include pecuniary loss, damage to reputation, standing in community, humiliation and mental suffering. Actual malice required. No punitive damages allowed unless compensatory damages awarded, unless statement actionable per se.

1976 Newspaper Pub’g Corp. v. Burke, 216 Va. 800, 224 S.E.2d 132.

In libel per se cases it is generally held that punitive damages may be awarded even though actual damages are neither found nor shown.

1956 Slaughter v. Valleydale Packers, 198 Va. 339, 94 S.E.2d 260.

Words injurious to plaintiff’s business reputation are actionable per se and plaintiff may recover verdict for substantial damages without giving any evidence of pecuniary loss. As in other tort cases there are two classes of damages: (1) general damages, which law presumes to be natural result of publication; (2) special damages which, although natural consequence thereof, are not assumed to be necessary or inevitable and must be shown by allegation and proof.

1944 M. Rosenberg & Sons v. Craft, 182 Va. 512, 29 S.E.2d 375.

Special damages are such as have actually occurred as result of injury and not implied by law. Plaintiff is required to state particular special damage he has sustained or he will not be permitted to give evidence of it at trial.

1942 Fuller v. Edwards, 180 Va. 191, 22 S.E.2d 26.

Injury to reputation constitutes injury to person, i.e., personal injury.

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Defamation Damages Summarized By Personal Injury Lawyer

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