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Defamation Malice: Cases Summarized By Injury Attorney

The cases below are a compilation of cases from the Virginia Supreme Court summarized by Brien Roche dealing with the topic of defamation malice and the related topic of intentional torts. For more information on the topic of defamation see the pages on Wikipedia.

Defamation Malice-Cases

2007 Raytheon Tech. Servs. Co. v. Hyland, 273 Va. 292, 641 S.E.2d 84.

In this defamation action brought by a corporate officer against the corporation and other officers there was an issue of qualified privilege as to the evaluation of the plaintiff as an employee. The issue of qualified privilege was overcome by the jury instruction on punitive damage, which required that the statements were made knowing they were false or made so recklessly as to amount to a willful disregard for the truth. If those facts exist, that overcomes the qualified privilege and also serves as a basis for punitive damages.

2005 Jordan v. Kollman, 269 Va. 569, 612 S.E.2d 203.

Defamation malice.Defendant published advertisements in newspaper about actions of mayor. Mayor qualifies as public official and therefore, the mayor in this deformation suit must prove actual malice on the part of the defendant. That malice must be proved with clear and convincing evidence. The general elements with a defamation claim are publication of an actionable statement with the required intent. In this case, the required intent of actual malice proven by clear and convincing evidence has not been established since at best, it appears that the defendant may simply not have fully comprehended the intricacies of the action of the city council of which the mayor/plaintiff was a member.

2003 Fuste v. Riverside Healthcare Ass’n, 265 Va. 127, 574 S.E.2d 858.

Defamation malice.Plaintiffs in this case were two physicians who left the employ of the defendant corporation. Defendant’s agents made comments about plaintiffs that plaintiffs had abandoned their patients and that there were concerns about their competence. These statements clearly prejudiced the doctors in the practice of their profession and also contained provably false factual statements. In this context, where the statements are capable of being proven true or false, they are not protected by the defense that they are statements of opinion. In a defamation case, the exact words spoken or written must be set out in the pleading. The doctrine of qualified privilege may apply in this case but that may be defeated by proof that the statements were made maliciously. In this case, the plaintiffs pleaded sufficient facts to survive demurrer with regard to the issue of malice and as such, demurrer was improperly sustained.

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

In defamation action based on statements regarding matters of public concern, actual malice must be proved before presumed or punitive damages can be awarded. Actual malice requires that statement be made with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not. Actual malice must be established by clear and convincing evidence.

1987 Oberbroeckling v. Lyle, 234 Va. 373, 362 S.E.2d 682.

Defamation malice. Charge of mismanagement along with other statements and conduct of defendant after alleged defamatory statement were sufficient to create jury issue of whether defendant acted with malice.

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

New York Times defamation malice: knowledge that publication was false or reckless disregard of whether it was false. Common-law malice: sinister or corrupt motive to injure plaintiff, or such gross indifference and recklessness as to amount to wanton or willful disregard of rights of plaintiff.

1979 Preston v. Land, 220 Va. 118, 255 S.E.2d 509.

Defendant made statement at administrative hearing about plaintiff. Qualified privilege is defense. Defamation malice consists of gross indifference and recklessness as amount to willful disregard of rights of plaintiff.

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

Common-law definition of malice does not measure up to constitutional requirements of New York Times standard.

1972 National Ass’n of Letter Carriers v. Austin, 213 Va. 377, 192 S.E.2d 737.

Defamation malice.Employee’s decision not to join union is private matter and does not present issue of public concern; only required to prove by preponderance of evidence that defamatory publication was made with actual malice. Higher standard of “public figure” cases not applicable.

1972 Sanders v. Harris, 213 Va. 369, 192 S.E.2d 754.

Newspaper printed erroneous statement regarding event leading up to meeting of college faculty. These were matters of public concern or general concern and burden is on person harmed to show actual malice before damages may be recovered.

1957 Crawford & Co. v. Graves, 199 Va. 495, 100 S.E.2d 714.

Express malice means some motive actuating defendant different from that which prima facie rendered communication privileged and being motive contrary to good morals.

1947 Felvey v. Shaffer, 186 Va. 419, 42 S.E.2d 860.

Defendant allegedly kicked plaintiff, along with slandering him. Assault was evidence of malice and defendant therefore abused any supposed privilege.

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Defamation Malice: Cases Summarized By Injury Attorney

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