California Defamation Law

Defamation, which consists of both libel and slander, is defined by case law and statute in California under the California Civ. Code §§ 44, 45a, and 46.

California Defamation Law

A libel which will be defamatory of the complainant without the necessity of explanatory subject, for example an inducement, innuendo or other extrinsic reality, is reported to be a libel on its face.


Unless the language perhaps not libelous on its face just isn’t actionable
Plaintiff establishes he has suffered specific damage as a proximate result thereof and alleges. Special damage is defined in Part 48a of the code.

Publication of a statement of fact:

that is false,
has a natural inclination to injure or which causes “unique damage,” and
the defendant’s mistake in publishing the statement amounted to at least neglect.

As an issue of legislation, in cases affecting public figures or issues of public issue, the weight is on the plaintiff to demonstrate falsity in a defamation action. Nizam-Aldine v. Town of Oakland, 47 Cal. Application. 4th 364 (Cal. Ct. App. 1996). In instances involving matters of just private concern, the burden of proving truth is on the defendant. Smith v. Maldonado, 72 Cal.App.4th 637, 646 & n.5 (Cal. Ct. Application. 1999). A reader additionally points out that, even when the burden is technically on the plaintiff to prove falsity, the complainant can easily change the burden to the defendant by just testifying that the statements at issue are untrue.

Publication, that might be composed or verbal, means communicating to a third person who understands the defamatory significance of the assertion and its software to the person to whom reference is produced. Publication do not need to be to the “people” at-large; communication to a single person besides the complainant is sufficient. Republishing a defamatory statement made by another is normally not protected.

What’s Defamation “Per Se”?

By way of example, a claim that the plaintiff is guilty of an offense is defamatory on its face pursuant to Cal. Civil Code 45a. In one case, a nonprofit organization (NPO) that urge for the rights of low-income migrant employees posted flyers promising a national retailer of women’s wear participated in prohibited business practices by contracting with manufacturing company that failed to pay minimum-wage or over-time. Although the statements would have certified as defamation by itself, the tribunal reasoned the retailer neglected to establish the statements in the flyers were false, and hence the statements cannot be considered defamatory. See Fashion 21 v. Coal. for Humane Immigrant Rights of L.A., 12 Cal.Rptr.3d 493 (Cal. Ct. Application. 2004).

A plaintiff need not demonstrate particular damages (e.g., damages to the plaintiff’s property, business, trade, career or vocation, including costs that resulted from the defamation) if the assertion is defamation per se. A statement is defamation by itself if it defames the plaintiff on its encounter, that is, without the need for extrinsic evidence to clarify the assertion’s defamatory character. Code 45a; Yow v. Nationwide Enquirer, Inc. 550 F.Supp.2d 1179, 1183 (E.D. Cal. 2008).

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