The following section from Day on Torts Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law​​​ is out of date and should not be used. It remains a part of this site for historical purposes only. An updated version of the book is available by subscription at (Additional information below.)

§24.1 Generally

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).

Recent Cases: 

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).

After an accident, many injury victims and their families want more information on the accident and their legal rights. Consequently, many of them have found their way to these pages. While we are happy you are here, please understand Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law was written to be a quick, invaluable reference for Tennessee tort lawyers. While the book provides the leading case for more than 300 tort law subjects and thousands of related case citations, it is not a substitute for personalized legal advice from a qualified lawyer.

Rather than researching these legal issues alone, we urge you to contact one of our award-winning lawyers who can sit down with you, review your case, answer your questions and clearly explain your rights and your options in a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced attorneys handle all personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency basis, so we only get paid if we win. If for any reason you are unable to come to our office, we will gladly come to you.

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The foregoing is an excerpt from Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law, published by John A. Day, Civil Trial Specialist, Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, recipient of Best Lawyers in America recognition, Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent™ rated attorney, and Top 100 Tennessee Mid-South Super Lawyers designee. Read John’s full bio here.

The book is now available electronically by subscription at The new format allows us to keep the book current as new opinions are released. BirdDog Law also has John's Tennessee Law of Civil Trial and Compendium of Tennessee Tort Reform Statutes available by subscription, as well as multiple free resources to help Tennessee lawyers serve their clients

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