This is the third post in the subject of slander and libel with the entire series being presented as part of the ongoing educational activity of our host, Eastern Arts & Humanities Center, Inc. (a not for profit corporation)
These posts are made in a text book presentation with the cases cited as precedents for the satements omitted.
The next elements to consider in determing libel and slander is as follows:
A defendant in an action for libel is liable for what is insinuated as well as for what is explicitly stated. If the words spoken or written are reasonably susceptible of two or more meanings, one of which is defamatory, and circumstances showing that such words were used with that meaning are not set forth, an innuendo was formerly necessary to the complaint to comply with the requirement that the defamatory sense in which the words were used be specified. Today, with notice pleading the requirement, the complaint should contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.
When the plaintiff intends to introduce evidence of statements made by the defendant other than those contained in the pleadings, he is required to give notice to the defendant specifying the date and content of each such statement at least 14 days before the trial begins or earlier if the court orders (note: this is Massachusetts procedure)
When however, the words complained of are not derogatory in themselves and no circumstances are relied upon to make them so in the minds of those who heard or saw them, the plaintiff has failed to prove that the publication was defamatory, and he may not recover simply because of a strained or unnatural meaning which he has attributed to it. It is well settled under such circumstances, that an innuendo cannot add anything to the meaning of the allegedly defamatory words.
The next post will discuss the requirement that a plaintiff must show that the alleged defamatory words used were concerning the plaintiff.