The Case: Davis v. The Tennessean , 83 S.W.3d 125 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2001).
The Basic Facts: Plaintiff filed libel action against a newspaper alleging damage to his reputation resulting from the newspaper's publication of a sentence in an article, which stated that he shot a man. His co-defendant had, in fact, killed the victim.
The Bottom Line:
- "Libel and slander are both forms of defamation; libel being written defamation and slander being spoken defamation. Quality Auto Parts Co., Inc. v. Bluff City Buick Co., Inc., 876 S.W.2d 818, 820 (Tenn. 1994)." 83 S.W.3d at 128.
- "To establish a prima facie case of defamation, the plaintiff must prove that (1) a party published a statement; (2) with knowledge that the statement was false and defaming to the other; or (3) with reckless disregard for the truth of the statement or with negligence in failing to ascertain the truth of the statement. Sullivan v. Baptist Mem'l Hosp., 995 S.W.2d 569, 571 (Tenn. 1999) (relying on Restatement (Second) of Torts § 580 B (1977))." Id.
- "However, 'the basis for an action for defamation, whether it be slander or libel, is that the defamation has resulted in an injury to the person's character and reputation.' Quality Auto Parts, 876 S.W.2d at 820. To be actionable, the allegedly defamatory statement must 'constitute a serious threat to the plaintiff's reputation.' Stones River Motors, Inc. v. Mid-South Publ'g Co., 651 S.W.2d 713, 719 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1983). Damages from false or inaccurate statements cannot be presumed; actual damage must be sustained and proved. Memphis Publ'g Co. v. Nichols, 569 S.W.2d 412, 416, 419 (Tenn. 1978)." Id.
Other Sources of Note: Ali v. Moore , 984 S.W.2d 224 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1998) (holding that a television or radio broadcast is a libel, particularly if based on a written script).
Steele v. Ritz , No. W2008-02125-COA-R3-CV, 2009 WL 4815183 (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 16, 2009) (affirming dismissal of defamation claim finding plaintiffs failed to allege defendant's statement actually referred to them); Sykes v. Chattanooga Housing Authority, No. E2008-0525-COA-R3-CV, 2009 WL 2365705 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jul. 31, 2009) (discussing immunity from SLAPP suits conferred by Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-21-1003 (2005)); Rose v. Cookeville Medical Center, No. M2007-02368-COA-R3-CV, 2008 WL 2078056 (Tenn. Ct. App. May 14, 2008) (affirming dismissal of claim for slander because complaint did not specify sufficiently the time and place of the alleged statements); Robertson v. The Leaf Chronicle, No. M2007-01025-COA-R3-CV, 2007 WL 2078056 (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 20, 2007) (upholding dismissal of defamation claim for failure to state claim and also finding that plaintiff sustained no damages).