2019 Georgia Code
Title 51 - Torts
Chapter 5 - Libel and Slander
§ 51-5-1. Libel defined; publication prerequisite to recovery
(a) A libel is a false and malicious defamation of another, expressed in print, writing, pictures, or signs, tending to injure the reputation of the person and exposing him to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule.
(b) The publication of the libelous matter is essential to recovery.
Orig. Code 1863, § 2916; Code 1868, § 2923; Code 1873, § 2974; Code 1882, § 2974; Civil Code 1895, § 3832; Civil Code 1910, § 4428; Code 1933, § 105-701.
LIBEL PER SE CONSISTS OF A CHARGE THAT ONE IS GUILTY OF A CRIME, DISHONESTY, OR IMMORALITY. Grayson v. Savannah News-Press, Inc., 110 Ga. App. 561, 139 S.E.2d 347 (1964); Rosanova v. Playboy Enters., Inc., 411 F. Supp. 440 (S.D. Ga. 1976), aff'd, 580 F.2d 859 (5th Cir. 1978); Eidson v. Berry, 202 Ga. App. 587, 415 S.E.2d 16 (1992), cert. denied, 202 Ga. App. 905, 415 S.E.2d 16 (1992).
WHEN CHARGE IS MADE IN WRITING AND IS EXHIBITED TO THIRD PERSON AND IS FALSE, IT CONSTITUTES LIBEL WHICH IS ACTIONABLE PER SE, without proof of special damage. Caswell v. Porter, 51 Ga. App. 513, 180 S.E. 860 (1935).
STATEMENTS WHICH TEND TO INJURE ONE IN ONE'S TRADE, OCCUPATION, OR BUSINESS ARE LIBELOUS PER SE, and no allegation of special damage need be made to support an action for libel or slander based on such statements. Walker v. Sheehan, 80 Ga. App. 606, 56 S.E.2d 628 (1949).
Defendant was not entitled to summary judgment because the defendant's statement constituted defamation per se as it did not require innuendo to be understood as injurious because the normal and obvious meaning of the phrase -- since the plaintiff last had the ability to practice medicine -- indicated that the plaintiff had lost the plaintiff's license or no longer had the physical or mental capacity to practice medicine, and either meaning was injurious to the plaintiff's reputation; and, although the defendant argued that the challenged statement referred to the plaintiff's ability to practice with the company the plaintiff had formerly worked for, nothing in the words themselves would reasonably lead a reader to that interpretation. Smith v. DiFrancesco, 341 Ga. App. 786, 802 S.E.2d 69 (2017).
INFERENCE MAY ALSO BE HARMFUL. --Libelous charge is just as effectively harmful, and therefore actionable per se whether harmful effect results from words which directly and unequivocally make charge, or whether it results from words which do so indirectly or by inference. It is the harmful effect of the defamatory language which renders it actionable per se, and not its directness or unequivocal nature. Floyd v. Atlanta Newspapers, Inc., 102 Ga. App. 840, 117 S.E.2d 906 (1960).
PUBLICATION WHICH ON ITS FACE WAS NECESSARILY WITHIN THE STATUTORY DEFINITIONS OF FORMER CODE 1933, §§ 105-201, 105-203, AND 105-701 (SEE NOW O.C.G.A. §§ 51-1-2, 51-1-4, AND 51-5-1) WAS CONSIDERED LIBELOUS PER SE. Southard v. Forbes, Inc., 588 F.2d 140 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 832, 100 S. Ct. 62, 62 L. Ed. 2d 42 (1979).
BURDEN OF PROOF. --In a case arising within the context of a labor dispute, the plaintiffs may not avail themselves of Georgia's libel law, or the remedies thereunder, unless the plaintiffs can show by clear and convincing evidence that the complained of statements were circulated with actual malice. Douglas v. Maddox, 233 Ga. App. 744, 505 S.E.2d 43 (1998).
SPECIAL DAMAGES NEED NOT BE PROVED. --When the language of a publication is libelous per se, the plaintiff may recover general damages without proof of special damages. Weatherholt v. Howard, 143 Ga. 41, 84 S.E. 119 (1915); Harrison v. Pool, 24 Ga. App. 587, 101 S.E. 765 (1919).
No proof of special damage is necessary in the case of libel per se. Rosanova v. Playboy Enters., Inc., 411 F. Supp. 440 (S.D. Ga. 1976), aff'd, 580 F.2d 859 (5th Cir. 1978).
When petition alleged libel per se and an injury to the plaintiff's reputation, an allegation of special damages was unnecessary. Sheley v. Southeastern Newspapers, Inc., 87 Ga. App. 167, 73 S.E.2d 211 (1952).
LOSS OF EMPLOYMENT, INCOME, OR PROFITS IS CATEGORIZED AS SPECIAL DAMAGES and is sufficient injury upon which to predicate an action for libel when the defamatory words are not libelous per se. Hood v. Dun & Bradstreet, Inc., 486 F.2d 25 (5th Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 415 U.S. 985, 94 S. Ct. 1580, 39 L. Ed. 2d 882 (1974).
CONSTRUCTION OF WORDS. --To determine if the words published constitute a libel, within the provisions of this section, the natural and obvious meaning to those who will read is the proper test. Hugh v. McCarty, 40 Ga. 444 (1869).
LANGUAGE OF ALLEGED LIBEL IS TO BE TAKEN IN ITS PLAIN AND NATURAL MEANING, and to be understood by courts and juries as other people would understand it, and according to the sense in which it appears to have been used and the ideas it is adapted to convey to those who read it. Grayson v. Savannah News-Press, Inc., 110 Ga. App. 561, 139 S.E.2d 347 (1964).
PUBLICATION ALLEGED TO BE LIBELOUS MUST BE CONSTRUED IN LIGHT OF ALL THE ATTENDING CIRCUMSTANCES, the cause and occasion of the publication, and all other extraneous matters which will tend to explain the allusion or point out the person in question. Brandon v. Arkansas Fuel Oil Co., 64 Ga. App. 139, 12 S.E.2d 414 (1940); Aiken v. May, 73 Ga. App. 502, 37 S.E.2d 225 (1946); World Ins. Co. v. Peavy, 110 Ga. App. 651, 139 S.E.2d 440 (1964).
WORDS ORDINARILY HARMLESS MAY FROM CONTEXT CONVEY SUCH MEANING AS TO GIVE GROUND FOR ACTION. Anderson v. Kennedy, 47 Ga. App. 380, 170 S.E. 555 (1933).
Words harmless in themselves may become libelous when the circumstances under which are published are such as to convey a covert meaning to the reader reflecting injuriously upon the reputation of the person to whom refer. Brandon v. Arkansas Fuel Oil Co., 64 Ga. App. 139, 12 S.E.2d 414 (1940); World Ins. Co. v. Peavy, 110 Ga. App. 651, 139 S.E.2d 440 (1964).
WORDS WHICH ARE SOMETIMES ACTIONABLE, WHEN TAKEN IN CONNECTION WITH ENTIRE ARTICLE MAY BE DEPRIVED OF THEIR USUAL STING AND AFFORD NO GROUND FOR RECOVERY. Anderson v. Kennedy, 47 Ga. App. 380, 170 S.E. 555 (1933).
WORDS WHICH, IF MERELY SPOKEN, WOULD NOT BE ACTIONABLE IN ABSENCE OF SPECIAL DAMAGE MAY BE LIBELOUS WHEN PRINTED if the words are false and tend to injure reputation and bring one into public hatred, contempt, or ridicule. Ordinarily, general damages only need be alleged in an action for libel. Floyd v. Atlanta Newspapers, Inc., 102 Ga. App. 840, 117 S.E.2d 906 (1960).
DEFAMATORY WORDS MUST REFER TO SOME ASCERTAINED OR ASCERTAINABLE PERSON, AND THAT PERSON MUST BE PLAINTIFF; if the words used really contain no reflection on any particular individual, no averment or innuendo can make defamatory, and an innuendo cannot make the person certain who was uncertain before. Constitution Publishing Co. v. Leathers, 48 Ga. App. 429, 172 S.E. 923.
PUBLICATION CLAIMED TO BE DEFAMATORY MUST BE READ AND CONSTRUED IN SENSE IN WHICH READERS TO WHOM IT IS ADDRESSED WOULD ORDINARILY UNDERSTAND IT. Brandon v. Arkansas Fuel Oil Co., 64 Ga. App. 139, 12 S.E.2d 414 (1940); Aiken v. May, 73 Ga. App. 502, 37 S.E.2d 225 (1946); Grayson v. Savannah News-Press, Inc., 110 Ga. App. 561, 139 S.E.2d 347 (1964).
When the language of a publication is reasonably susceptible of the construction that it makes a libelous charge, it becomes libelous when it conveys that charge and would be so understood by the person to whom the writing might be communicated. Brandon v. Arkansas Fuel Oil Co., 64 Ga. App. 139, 12 S.E.2d 414 (1940).
When language does not directly and expressly contain a libel, it may do so if the words are capable of such construction, and would be so understood by persons to whom the words might be communicated. Brandon v. Arkansas Fuel Oil Co., 64 Ga. App. 139, 12 S.E.2d 414 (1940).
The language of an alleged libel must be construed, not by what the writer intended to mean, but by the construction which would be placed upon it by the average reader. Atlanta Journal Co. v. Doyal, 82 Ga. App. 321, 60 S.E.2d 802 (1950).
In determining whether words are capable of a defamatory meaning, the judge will construe the words according to the fair and natural meaning which will be given the words by reasonable persons of ordinary intelligence, and will not consider what person setting themselves to work to deduce some unusual meaning might succeed in extracting from the words. Hardboard Mach. Co. v. Coastal Prods. Corp., 289 F. Supp. 496 (M.D. Ga. 1967), aff'd, 398 F.2d 833 (5th Cir. 1968).
An alleged defamatory publication must be construed in the sense in which the readers to whom the publication is addressed would ordinarily, naturally, and normally interpret it, and plain, nondefamatory, unambiguous words may not be enlarged by innuendo. Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. v. Miller, 398 F.2d 218 (5th Cir. 1968).
Language must be construed, not only by what the speaker intends to mean, but also by what the average and reasonable reader may understand to mean. Montgomery v. Pacific & S. Co., 131 Ga. App. 712, 206 S.E.2d 631, aff'd, 233 Ga. 175, 210 S.E.2d 714 (1974), overruled on other grounds, Diamond v. American Family Corp., 186 Ga. App. 681, 368 S.E.2d 350 (1988).
WITNESSES ARE ALLOWED TO GIVE THEIR UNDERSTANDING OF WORD PUBLISHED AND SPOKEN. Hodsdon v. Whitworth, 153 Ga. App. 783, 266 S.E.2d 561 (1980).
PURPOSE OF INNUENDO. --Words which are clearly not defamatory cannot have their meaning enlarged by innuendo. Words which are libelous per se need no innuendo. Between these extremes lies the case of ambiguous language, when it is for the jury to say whether, in view of all the facts charged, the publication amounted to a libel. Central of Ga. Ry. v. Sheftall, 118 Ga. 865, 45 S.E. 687 (1903).
The office of an innuendo is to explain that which is of doubtful or ambiguous meaning in the language of the publication. Piedmont Cotton Mills v. James, 59 Ga. App. 239, 200 S.E. 457 (1938).
USE OF INNUENDO PERMITTED ONLY WHEN WORDS ARE AMBIGUOUS. --The law of Georgia is consistent in requiring the factor of ambiguous language as a prerequisite for the employment of innuendo. Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. v. Miller, 398 F.2d 218 (5th Cir. 1968).
WORDS WHICH ARE CLEARLY NOT LIBELOUS CANNOT HAVE THEIR NATURAL MEANING CHANGED BY INNUENDO. Central of Ga. Ry. v. Sheftall, 118 Ga. 865, 45 S.E. 687 (1903); World Ins. Co. v. Peavy, 110 Ga. App. 651, 139 S.E.2d 440 (1964).
When the language alleged to be libelous is so clear, certain, and unambiguous that the only possible construction is that it is not libelous or defamatory, innuendo cannot be used to enlarge upon the meaning of the words. World Ins. Co. v. Peavy, 110 Ga. App. 651, 139 S.E.2d 440 (1964).
PLAINTIFF CANNOT BY INNUENDO DRAW FROM WRITING A CONCLUSION NOT JUSTIFIED BY LANGUAGE USED, but it is competent for the plaintiff to explain in this way an ambiguous publication, to point out the intention of the author, and to show wherein the effect of the language was to injure the plaintiff's reputation. Brandon v. Arkansas Fuel Oil Co., 64 Ga. App. 139, 12 S.E.2d 414 (1940); Aiken v. May, 73 Ga. App. 502, 37 S.E.2d 225 (1946).
WORDS WHICH ARE PLAIN AND UNAMBIGUOUS AND DO NOT IMPUTE CRIME CANNOT, BY INNUENDO, HAVE THEIR MEANING ENLARGED AND EXTENDED SO AS TO IMPUTE CRIME. Estes v. Sterchi Bros. Stores, 50 Ga. App. 619, 179 S.E. 222 (1935).
If the plain, unambiguous words contained in the publication do not impute a criminal offense, the meaning thereof cannot be enlarged or extended by an innuendo for that purpose; but when the language used is capable of being understood in a double sense, the one criminal and the other innocent, the plaintiff, by making the proper allegations in the plaintiff's declaration, may, by an innuendo, aver the meaning with which the plaintiff thinks it was published, and the jury may find whether the publication was made with that meaning or not. Brandon v. Arkansas Fuel Oil Co., 64 Ga. App. 139, 12 S.E.2d 414 (1940).
WORDS WHICH ARE LIBELOUS PER SE DO NOT NEED AN INNUENDO. World Ins. Co. v. Peavy, 110 Ga. App. 651, 139 S.E.2d 440 (1964).
ESSENTIAL INGREDIENT OF ACTION FOR LIBEL IS MALICE, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, but when the language used is actionable per se, malice is implied, except when the occasion of the utterance renders it privileged, in which case, while the occasion does not excuse if the accusation is maliciously made, the burden is put upon the plaintiff to establish malice. Edmonds v. Atlanta Newspapers, Inc., 92 Ga. App. 15, 87 S.E.2d 415 (1955).
PROOF THAT WRITING IS FALSE, AND THAT IT MALIGNS PRIVATE CHARACTER OR MERCANTILE STANDING OF ANOTHER, IS ITSELF EVIDENCE OF LEGAL MALICE. Montgomery v. Pacific & S. Co., 131 Ga. App. 712, 206 S.E.2d 631, aff'd, 233 Ga. 175, 210 S.E.2d 714 (1974), overruled on other grounds, Diamond v. American Family Corp., 186 Ga. App. 681, 368 S.E.2d 350 (1988).
PUBLICATION OF AN OPINION ON A MATTER WHICH IS WHOLLY SUBJECTIVE, not capable of proof or disproof, and with respect to which reasonable men might differ, such as the rating of an attorney by the publisher of a legal directory, is not libelous. Bergen v. Martindale-Hubbell, Inc., 176 Ga. App. 745, 337 S.E.2d 770 (1985), appeal dismissed and cert. denied, 479 U.S. 803, 107 S. Ct. 45, 93 L. Ed. 2d 7 (1986).
AN AFFIDAVIT BEFORE A MAGISTRATE, MADE FOR THE PURPOSE OF CAUSING AN ARREST, will not support an action for libel, though falsely and maliciously made. Watkins v. Laser/Print-Atlanta, Inc., 183 Ga. App. 172, 358 S.E.2d 477 (1987).
DEFAMATION BY BROADCAST INCLUDES ELEMENTS OF BOTH LIBEL AND SLANDER. S & W Seafoods Co. v. Jacor Broadcasting, 194 Ga. App. 233, 390 S.E.2d 228 (1990), cert. denied, 194 Ga. App. 912, 390 S.E.2d 228 (1991).
COMMENTS BROADCAST BY RADIO TALK-SHOW HOST on a restaurant review segment of the host's listener call-in show broadcast were not actionable under the statute, either because they were shown not to have been false or because they fell within the ambit of protected speech. S & W Seafoods Co. v. Jacor Broadcasting, 194 Ga. App. 233, 390 S.E.2d 228 (1990), cert. denied, 194 Ga. App. 912, 390 S.E.2d 228 (1991).
CITED in Rakestraw v. Brogdon, 56 Ga. 549 (1876); Invester v. Coe, 33 Ga. App. 620, 127 S.E. 790 (1925); Horton v. Georgian Co., 175 Ga. 261, 165 S.E. 443 (1932); Lamb v. Fedderwitz, 71 Ga. App. 249, 30 S.E.2d 436 (1944); Moore v. Gregory, 72 Ga. App. 614, 34 S.E.2d 624 (1945); Braden v. Baugham, 74 Ga. App. 802, 41 S.E.2d 581 (1947); Shiver v. Valdosta Press, 82 Ga. App. 406, 61 S.E.2d 221 (1950); Freeman v. Busch Jewelry Co., 98 F. Supp. 963 (N.D. Ga. 1951); Haggard v. Shaw, 100 Ga. App. 813, 112 S.E.2d 286 (1959); Savannah News-Press, Inc. v. Hartridge, 104 Ga. App. 22, 120 S.E.2d 918 (1961); Savannah News-Press, Inc. v. Hartridge, 110 Ga. App. 203, 138 S.E.2d 173 (1964); Peacock Constr. Co. v. Erickson's, Inc., 121 Ga. App. 544, 174 S.E.2d 276 (1970); Molton v. Commercial Credit Corp., 127 Ga. App. 390, 193 S.E.2d 629 (1972); Europa Hair, Inc. v. Browning, 133 Ga. App. 753, 212 S.E.2d 862 (1975); Neal v. McCall, 134 Ga. App. 680, 215 S.E.2d 537 (1975); Garren v. Southland Corp., 235 Ga. 784, 221 S.E.2d 571 (1976); Lester v. Trust Co., 144 Ga. App. 526, 241 S.E.2d 633 (1978); Spaulding v. Rich's, Inc., 146 Ga. App. 693, 247 S.E.2d 218 (1978); Morton v. Gardner, 242 Ga. 852, 252 S.E.2d 413 (1979); Georgia Power Co. v. Busbin, 159 Ga. App. 416, 283 S.E.2d 647 (1981); Spelsberg v. Sweeney, 514 F. Supp. 622 (S.D. Ga. 1981); Jones v. Thornton, 172 Ga. App. 412, 323 S.E.2d 217 (1984); Majik Mkt. v. Best, 684 F. Supp. 1089 (N.D. Ga. 1987); Gantt v. Patient Communication Systems, 200 Ga. App. 35, 406 S.E.2d 796 (1991); Kitchen Hardware, Ltd. v. Kuehne & Nagel, Inc., 205 Ga. App. 94, 421 S.E.2d 550 (1992); Roberts v. Lane, 210 Ga. App. 10, 435 S.E.2d 227 (1993); Mills v. Ellerbee, 177 Bankr. 731 (Bankr. N.D. Ga. 1995); Agee v. Huggins, 888 F. Supp. 1573 (N.D. Ga. 1995); Blomberg v. Cox Enters., Inc., 228 Ga. App. 179, 491 S.E.2d 430 (1997); Bd. of Pub. Safety v. Jordan, 252 Ga. App. 577, 556 S.E.2d 837 (2001); Hoffmann-Pugh v. Ramsey, 193 F. Supp. 2d 1295 (N.D. Ga. 2002); Mathis v. Cannon, 276 Ga. 16, 573 S.E.2d 376 (2002); Simmons v. Futral, 262 Ga. App. 838, 586 S.E.2d 732 (2003); No Witness, LLC v. Cumulus Media Partners, LLC, No. 1:06-CV-1733 JEC, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83761 (N.D. Ga. Nov. 13, 2007).
LIBEL AND SLANDER ARE SIMILAR AND RELATED BUT DO NOT GIVE RISE TO SAME CAUSES OF ACTION. Griffin v. Branch, 116 Ga. App. 627, 158 S.E.2d 452 (1967).
DEFINITION OF SLANDER HAS BEEN INCORPORATED INTO DEFINITION OF LIBEL, and false and defamatory statements made in regard to another in "his trade, office, or profession calculated to injure him therein" also constitutes an action for libel. Hood v. Dun & Bradstreet, Inc., 486 F.2d 25 (5th Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 415 U.S. 985, 94 S. Ct. 1580, 39 L. Ed. 2d 882 (1974).
The definition of slander in Georgia has been incorporated into the definition of libel. Smith v. First Nat'l Bank, 837 F.2d 1575 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 821, 109 S. Ct. 64, 102 L. Ed. 2d 41 (1988).
A charge made against another "in reference to his trade, office, or profession, calculated to injure him therein," although embodied in the definition of slander, gives rise to an action for libel as well, and a person against whom such an allegation is made need not allege or prove special damages. Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. v. Miller, 398 F.2d 218 (5th Cir. 1968).
Although part of the definition of slander, a charge made against another "in reference to his trade, office, or profession" which is "calculated to injure him therein" also gives rise to a libel action. Southard v. Forbes, Inc., 588 F.2d 140 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 832, 100 S. Ct. 62, 62 L. Ed. 2d 42 (1979).
ORAL PUBLICATION OF WRITTEN DEFAMATION CONSTITUTES LIBEL, NOT SLANDER, and in such case the normal rules of respondeat superior would apply. Land v. Delta Airlines, 147 Ga. App. 738, 250 S.E.2d 188 (1978).
IF WORDS ARE SLANDEROUS THEY WOULD NOT BECOME LESS DEFAMATORY BY PUBLISHING THEM IN WRITING, though words which might not be actionable per se as slander may be libelous per se when put in writing or print. Griffin v. Branch, 116 Ga. App. 627, 158 S.E.2d 452 (1967).
NECESSITY OF PUBLICATION. --Before there can be a recovery for libel under O.C.G.A. § 51-5-1, there must be communication to any person other than the party libeled. Sigmon v. Womack, 158 Ga. App. 47, 279 S.E.2d 254 (1981).
A parent's claims of defamation against a school official were either time-barred or, if viable, failed as a matter of law because: (1) there was no claim that the alleged defamatory letter was published to anyone other than the parent; and (2) without publication, there could be no cause of action for defamation. Chisolm v. Tippens, 289 Ga. App. 757, 658 S.E.2d 147, cert. denied, 129 S. Ct. 576, 172 L.Ed.2d 431 (2008).
NECESSITY OF UNDERSTANDING OF LIBELOUS NATURE OF PUBLICATION. --In order to effect the publication of a libel there must be a reading of it and, not only that, there must be an understanding of its meaning by the person reading it. Sigmon v. Womack, 158 Ga. App. 47, 279 S.E.2d 254 (1981).
It is not enough that the language used is reasonably capable of a defamatory interpretation if the recipient did not in fact so understand it. Sigmon v. Womack, 158 Ga. App. 47, 279 S.E.2d 254 (1981).
CONTROL OF LIBEL REQUIRED. --Defendant in a libel action was entitled to summary judgment since it was not shown that the defendant exercised any control over the content of the libelous statement. Mullinax v. Miller, 242 Ga. App. 811, 531 S.E.2d 390 (2000).
INVITED LIBEL. --To constitute an invited libel it is enough that the complainant requests or consents to the presence of a third party and solicits the publication of matter which the complainant knows or has reasonable cause to suspect will be unfavorable to the complainant. Sophianopoulos v. McCormick, 192 Ga. App. 583, 385 S.E.2d 682 (1989).
After the university professor sought the assistance of a professional association in resolving a complaint with the professor's superiors, and knew that they would respond with information unfavorable to the professor, the professor's actions were sufficient to constitute an invited libel. Sophianopoulos v. McCormick, 192 Ga. App. 583, 385 S.E.2d 682 (1989).
When the only communication of allegedly libelous matter was between a former employer and the agent of a prospective employer, and when the former employee had expressly authorized such communication, there was no publication in the sense contemplated in this statutory scheme. Kenney v. Gilmore, 195 Ga. App. 407, 393 S.E.2d 472, cert. denied, 195 Ga. App. 407, 393 S.E.2d 472 (1990).
PUBLICATION OF FALSE STATEMENT WHICH TENDS TO INJURE REPUTATION OF ANOTHER AND EXPOSE ONE TO PUBLIC HATRED, CONTEMPT, OR RIDICULE, WILL BE PRESUMED TO BE MALICIOUS PUBLICATION; the burden is on the publisher to rebut this presumption. Montgomery v. Pacific & S. Co., 131 Ga. App. 712, 206 S.E.2d 631, aff'd, 233 Ga. 175, 210 S.E.2d 714 (1974), overruled on other grounds, Diamond v. American Family Corp., 186 Ga. App. 681, 368 S.E.2d 350 (1988).
DISCHARGEABILITY IN BANKRUPTCY. --Count based on Tortious Interference with Business Relations is not excepted from discharge by 11 U.S.C. § 1328(a)(4) because that count did not involve personal injury. However, count II based on defamation involved personal injury and may therefore be excepted from discharge. Finally, count III, for punitive damages under O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1, may also be excepted from discharge under 11 U.S.C. § 1328(a)(4) to the extent punitive damages are awarded based on personal injury. Adams v. Adams (In re Adams), 478 B.R. 476 (Bankr. N.D. Ga. 2012).
PUBLICATION OF LIBELOUS MATTER IMPOSES ON PUBLISHER BURDEN OF REBUTTING ACCOMPANYING PRESUMPTION OF MALICE. Rosanova v. Playboy Enters., Inc., 411 F. Supp. 440 (S.D. Ga. 1976), aff'd, 580 F.2d 859 (5th Cir. 1978).
THERE IS PUBLICATION OF LIBEL WHEN IT IS MADE KNOWN TO SINGLE PERSON OTHER THAN PLAINTIFF. Piedmont Cotton Mills v. James, 59 Ga. App. 239, 200 S.E. 457 (1938).
RULE THAT THERE IS NO PUBLICATION WHEN WORDS ARE COMMUNICATED ONLY TO PERSON DEFAMED IS SUBJECT TO EXCEPTION OR QUALIFICATION. Thus, in the case of a libel, whether the general rule extends to a disclosure by the person libeled is to be determined by the causal relation existing between the libel and the publication. There may be a publication when the sender intends or has reason to suppose that the communication will reach third persons, which happens, or which result naturally flows from the sending. Colonial Stores, Inc. v. Barrett, 73 Ga. App. 839, 38 S.E.2d 306 (1946).
LETTER WRITTEN BY DEFENDANT TO PLAINTIFF, SENT BY REGISTERED MAIL, WITHOUT MORE, DOES NOT AMOUNT TO PUBLICATION. McCravy v. Schneer's, 47 Ga. App. 703, 171 S.E. 391 (1933).
LETTER FROM ACCOUNTING FIRM TO EMPLOYER SUFFICIENT PUBLICATION. --With regard to a controller's claims for defamation and tortious interference against an accounting/auditing firm that wrote a letter to the controller's employer that resulted in the controller's termination from employment, the trial court erred by dismissing the complaint after concluding that the alleged defamatory statements were inactionable privileged communications that had not been published since the controller sufficiently alleged malice, the communications between the accounting/auditing firm and the employer were conditionally privileged under O.C.G.A. § 51-5-7, and the controller sufficiently alleged publication of the statements. Saye v. Deloitte & Touche, LLP, 295 Ga. App. 128, 670 S.E.2d 818 (2008).
COMMUNICATION OF INFORMATION TO SECRETARY, OR TO OTHERS WITHIN CORPORATE FRAMEWORK, IS NOT PUBLICATION. Peacock v. Retail Credit Co., 302 F. Supp. 418 (N.D. Ga. 1969), aff'd, 429 F.2d 31 (5th Cir. 1970), cert. denied, 401 U.S. 938, 91 S. Ct. 927, 28 L. Ed. 2d 217 (1971).
Memorandum sent by an organization's executive director to the organization's officers regarding a payment made to the organization's treasurer and the treasurer's affiliation with a corporate member was an intracorporate communication, and as such did not satisfy the publication requirement of O.C.G.A. § 51-5-1(b). Koly v. Enney, 508 F. Supp. 2d 1254 (N.D. Ga. 2007), rev'd on other grounds, 269 Fed. Appx. 861 (11th Cir. 2008).
EVERY PUBLICATION OF LIBELOUS MATTER IS A SEPARATE CAUSE OF ACTION, regardless of the time, place or publisher of the original publication. Peacock v. Retail Credit Co., 302 F. Supp. 418 (N.D. Ga. 1969), aff'd, 429 F.2d 31 (5th Cir. 1970), cert. denied, 401 U.S. 938, 91 S. Ct. 927, 28 L. Ed. 2d 217 (1971).
After a libel is published, and subsequently the same libel is again published by an independent party, without participation by the first publisher, the republication is independent and separate from the first publication. It is an independent tort. Peacock v. Retail Credit Co., 302 F. Supp. 418 (N.D. Ga. 1969), aff'd, 429 F.2d 31 (5th Cir. 1970), cert. denied, 401 U.S. 938, 91 S. Ct. 927, 28 L. Ed. 2d 217 (1971).
PRINTING LIBEL IS REGARDED AS PUBLICATION WHEN POSSESSION OF PRINTED MATTER IS DELIVERED WITH EXPECTATION THAT IT WILL BE READ BY SOME THIRD PERSON, provided that such result actually follows. Colonial Stores, Inc. v. Barrett, 73 Ga. App. 839, 38 S.E.2d 306 (1946).
PUBLISHER OF MATTER IS RESPONSIBLE, NOT ONLY FOR ACTUAL WORDS PUBLISHED, BUT FOR INNUENDO THAT MAY ARISE FROM SUCH WORDS. Montgomery v. Pacific & S. Co., 131 Ga. App. 712, 206 S.E.2d 631, aff'd, 233 Ga. 175, 210 S.E.2d 714 (1974), overruled on other grounds, Diamond v. American Family Corp., 186 Ga. App. 681, 368 S.E.2d 350 (1988).
GENERALLY, REPUBLISHER OF DEFAMATORY STATEMENT IS EQUALLY LIABLE WITH ORIGINAL PUBLISHER THEREOF. Atlanta Journal Co. v. Doyal, 82 Ga. App. 321, 60 S.E.2d 802 (1950).
NO LIABILITY ATTACHES TO REPUBLICATION OF DEFAMATORY MATTER IF REPUBLICATION THEREOF IS PRIVILEGED. Atlanta Journal Co. v. Doyal, 82 Ga. App. 321, 60 S.E.2d 802 (1950).
REPORT ON THE QUALITY OF A PAINTING JOB containing the writer's expression of the writer's opinions about deficiencies in the work was not libelous. Davis v. Sherwin-Williams Co., 242 Ga. App. 907, 531 S.E.2d 764 (2000).
IF A SUPERVISOR HAS A DUTY TO REPORT A MATTER, the supervisor's report is not considered published for purposes of the tort of libel merely because it has been placed in the subject employee's personnel file. Cartwright v. Wilbanks, 247 Ga. App. 187, 541 S.E.2d 393 (2000).
PUBLICATION TO EMPLOYER SUFFICIENT. --In a defamation claim alleging that the individual appellee falsely accused the appellant of sexual harassment, resulting in the termination of the appellant's employment, the appellant's defamation claim against the individual appellee did not fail to state a claim because any communication that the individual appellee made to the appellant's employer could constitute a publication that did not fall within the intracorporate privilege as the facts could show that the appellant and the individual appellee worked for two separate and distinct entities that were not engaged in a joint venture or undertaking. Boyd v. Disabled American Veterans, 349 Ga. App. 351, 826 S.E.2d 181 (2019).
In a defamation claim alleging that the individual appellee falsely accused the appellant of sexual harassment, resulting in the termination of the appellant's employment, the appellant's defamation claim against the individual appellee did not fail to state a claim because any communications the individual appellee made to coworkers were publications unless the communications fell within the intracorporate privilege, and the coworkers had reason to receive the information because of the coworkers' duty or authority. Boyd v. Disabled American Veterans, 349 Ga. App. 351, 826 S.E.2d 181 (2019).
TORTIOUS ACT IN DEFAMATION ACTION OCCURS AT PLACE WHERE LIBELOUS MATERIAL IS DELIVERED AND CIRCULATED. Process Control Corp. v. Witherup Fabrication & Erection, Inc., 439 F. Supp. 1284 (N.D. Ga. 1977).
WHEN THE PLAINTIFF ALLEGES PUBLICATION OF LIBELOUS MATTER AT CERTAIN DESIGNATED TIMES AND PLACES, the plaintiff cannot at trial show publication at different time and place from those alleged since such testimony would tend to prove a separate cause of action, as each publication of matter shown to be libelous constitutes a separate cause of action. Western Union Tel. Co. v. Vickers, 71 Ga. App. 204, 30 S.E.2d 440 (1944).
A COMMUNICATION MADE BY ONE CORPORATE AGENT TO ANOTHER is not publication in the legal sense. Lepard v. Robb, 201 Ga. App. 41, 410 S.E.2d 160 (1991); Ekokotu v. Pizza Hut, Inc., 205 Ga. App. 534, 422 S.E.2d 903, cert. denied, 205 Ga. App. 899, 422 S.E.2d 903 (1992).
Memorandum in which a vice chairperson of an organization alleged that the organization's vice president and treasurer acted improperly in violation of the organization's conflict of interest rules by allowing the treasurer to receive payment for work that the treasurer performed for the organization, was not actionable under O.C.G.A. § 51-5-1(b) because the memorandum was not considered to have been published in accordance with O.C.G.A. § 51-5-3 but instead was an intracorporate memorandum; it was sent only to board members and contained information related to organization business. Koly v. Enney, 269 Fed. Appx. 861 (11th Cir. 2008).
EMPLOYER'S INVESTIGATION OF EMPLOYEE'S JOB PERFORMANCE. --Publication of allegedly defamatory information in the course of an employer's investigation of an employee's job performance, when made to persons in authority, is not "publication" within the meaning of the law. Lepard v. Robb, 201 Ga. App. 41, 410 S.E.2d 160 (1991); Ekokotu v. Pizza Hut, Inc., 205 Ga. App. 534, 422 S.E.2d 903, cert. denied, 205 Ga. App. 899, 422 S.E.2d 903 (1992).
A letter written by a physician containing allegedly defamatory remarks about the plaintiff, a hospital nurse, which was given to the hospital administrator and the director of human resources was not published within the meaning of subsection (b) of O.C.G.A. § 51-5-1, since it was not shown to anyone who did not need to see it for employment purposes. Luckey v. Gioia, 230 Ga. App. 431, 496 S.E.2d 539 (1998).
Publication of allegedly defamatory information in the course of an employer's investigation of an employee's job performance, when made to persons in authority, is not "publication" within the meaning of subsection (b) of O.C.G.A. § 51-5-1 and, whether the communication was made maliciously and with knowledge of falsity is immaterial when there has been no publication, for without publication there is no libel or slander. Kramer v. Kroger Co., 243 Ga. App. 883, 534 S.E.2d 446 (2000).
PRIVILEGED STATEMENT NOT PUBLISHED. --A report by a medical consultant to an insurance company was privileged since it was made in the performance of the consultant's private duty to the company. Even assuming the report contained libelous matter, such disclosure was not the "publication of libelous matter." Haezebrouck v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 216 Ga. App. 809, 455 S.E.2d 842 (1995).
STATEMENTS IN DOCUMENT SUBPOENAED FOR WORKERS' COMPENSATION HEARING. --Even if statements were libelous and were published in workers' compensation hearing, they were not actionable inasmuch as the document in which they appeared had been subpoenaed by the plaintiff for use in the hearing, and there can be no recovery for an invited libel. Auer v. Black, 163 Ga. App. 787, 294 S.E.2d 616 (1982).
EDITORIAL OPINION NOT LIBEL. --Editorial opinion that a candidate hoped to fool voters by running for public office after the candidate changed the candidate's name to one that was similar to the present governor did not imply an assertion of objective fact that might be proved false. Rather, it was merely speculation as to the candidate's motive based on the candidate's behavior which could not be proven as absolutely true or false and was the sort of opinion that is not actionable as libel. Collins v. Cox Enters., Inc., 215 Ga. App. 679, 452 S.E.2d 226 (1994).
PUBLIC OFFICIAL CANNOT RECOVER FOR LIBELOUS STATEMENTS UNLESS OFFICIAL CAN PROVE STATEMENTS WERE MADE WITH "ACTUAL MALICE." --Actual malice is defined as "knowledge that the statement is false or reckless disregard of whether it is false or not." Hood v. Dun & Bradstreet, Inc., 486 F.2d 25 (5th Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 415 U.S. 985, 94 S. Ct. 1580, 39 L. Ed. 2d 882 (1974).
PROOF OF ACTUAL MALICE OR RECKLESS DISREGARD REQUIRED. --Damages cannot be awarded to public official for defamatory falsehood relating to official conduct in absence of proof of actual malice or reckless disregard of whether statement was true or false. Even when the statement is false, the plaintiff must meet this standard. Rosanova v. Playboy Enters., Inc., 411 F. Supp. 440 (S.D. Ga. 1976), aff'd, 580 F.2d 859 (5th Cir. 1978).
GUIDELINE FOR RULING ON SUMMARY JUDGMENT. --Inasmuch as the First Amendment mandates that a public figure plaintiff prove actual malice by clear and convincing evidence, a court ruling on a motion for summary judgment in such a case must be guided by the New York Times "clear and convincing" evidentiary standard in determining whether a genuine issue of actual malice exists -- that is, whether the evidence presented is such that a reasonable jury might find that actual malice had been shown with convincing clarity. Barber v. Perdue, 194 Ga. App. 287, 390 S.E.2d 234 (1989), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 967, 111 S. Ct. 430, 112 L. Ed. 2d 414 (1990).
WHEN ACTUAL MALICE IS SHOWN, PRESUMED AND PUNITIVE DAMAGES ARE RECOVERABLE IF APPLICABLE STATE LAW PERMITS SUCH DAMAGES, and hence special damages need not be shown. Rosanova v. Playboy Enters., Inc., 411 F. Supp. 440 (S.D. Ga. 1976), aff'd, 580 F.2d 859 (5th Cir. 1978).
PUBLISHER IS LIABLE ONLY ON CLEAR PROOF THAT DEFAMATORY FALSEHOOD WAS MADE WITH KNOWLEDGE OF ITS FALSITY OR WITH RECKLESS DISREGARD FOR TRUTH. Rosanova v. Playboy Enters., Inc., 411 F. Supp. 440 (S.D. Ga. 1976), aff'd, 580 F.2d 859 (5th Cir. 1978).
"RECKLESS DISREGARD FOR TRUTH" CONSTRUED. --United States Supreme Court has equated reckless disregard of the truth with subjective awareness of probable falsity; thus, in a libel or slander action there must be sufficient evidence to permit the conclusion that the defendant in fact entertained serious doubts as to the truth of the defendant's publication. Rosanova v. Playboy Enters., Inc., 411 F. Supp. 440 (S.D. Ga. 1976), aff'd, 580 F.2d 859 (5th Cir. 1978).
CONSTITUTIONAL STANDARD OF PROOF OF ACTUAL MALICE IS THAT OF CONVINCING CLARITY. Rosanova v. Playboy Enters., Inc., 411 F. Supp. 440 (S.D. Ga. 1976), aff'd, 580 F.2d 859 (5th Cir. 1978).
PUBLIC FIGURES INCLUDE THOSE PERSONS WHO, THOUGH NOT PUBLIC OFFICIALS, ARE INVOLVED IN ISSUES IN WHICH PUBLIC HAS JUSTIFIED AND IMPORTANT INTEREST. Such figures are, of course, numerous and include artists, athletes, business people, dilettantes, anyone who is famous or infamous because of who one is or what one has done. Rosanova v. Playboy Enters., Inc., 411 F. Supp. 440 (S.D. Ga. 1976), aff'd, 580 F.2d 859 (5th Cir. 1978).
PRIVATE INDIVIDUAL IS ONE WHO HAS NOT ACCEPTED PUBLIC OFFICE NOR ASSUMED INFLUENTIAL ROLE IN ORDERING SOCIETY, that is to say, occupies a role of special prominence in the affairs of society or thrust themselves to the forefront of particular public controversies in order to influence the resolution of the issues involved. In either event, such persons invite attention and comment. Rosanova v. Playboy Enters., Inc., 411 F. Supp. 440 (S.D. Ga. 1976), aff'd, 580 F.2d 859 (5th Cir. 1978).
NONMEDIA INDIVIDUAL DEFENDANT ACCORDED CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS. --When the plaintiff is found to be a public figure, a nonmedia individual defendant, whose allegedly defamatory comments are made on telecast, can be accorded rights provided in New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 84 S. Ct. 710, 11 L. Ed 2d 686 (1964), which defines the level of constitutional protection accorded to a person who makes alleged defamatory statements about a public person. Woy v. Turner, 573 F. Supp. 35 (N.D. Ga. 1983).
IT IS FOR TRIAL JUDGE TO DETERMINE WHETHER PROOF SHOWS THE PLAINTIFF TO BE PUBLIC OFFICIAL. Rosanova v. Playboy Enters., Inc., 411 F. Supp. 440 (S.D. Ga. 1976), aff'd, 580 F.2d 859 (5th Cir. 1978).
WHETHER MATTER IS OF PUBLIC OR GENERAL CONCERN IS QUESTION OF LAW FOR COURT. Rosanova v. Playboy Enters., Inc., 411 F. Supp. 440 (S.D. Ga. 1976), aff'd, 580 F.2d 859 (5th Cir. 1978).
LIMITED-PURPOSE PUBLIC FIGURE. --A former city employee who was indicted for theft was a limited-purpose public figure for purposes of a libel suit the employee brought. The controversy, involving the alleged theft of city money by a high-ranking official with direct control over the city's funds, constituted an issue of public concern; the employee was pivotal to the controversy; and the alleged defamation directly related to the employee's participation in the controversy. Jones v. Albany Herald Publ'g Co., 290 Ga. App. 126, 658 S.E.2d 876 (2008).
STATEMENTS ATTRIBUTED TO SCHOOL OFFICIALS. --District court correctly found that the claimant's complaint alleging Georgia torts of slander, libel, and defamation of character failed to identify any specific written or verbal statements attributed to the school officials because the claimant conceded that the claimant did not know who made the statements which formed the basis of the tort claims, and Georgia tort law made it clear it had not waived its sovereign immunity for tort claims against state officers or employees. Sarver v. Jackson, No. 08-16903, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 19735 (11th Cir. Sept. 2, 2009).
ACTIONS FOR INJURIES TO REPUTATION MUST BE BROUGHT WITHIN ONE YEAR FROM DATE OF ALLEGED DEFAMATORY ACTS, regardless of whether or not the plaintiff had knowledge of the act or acts at the time of their occurrence. Davis v. Hospital Auth., 154 Ga. App. 654, 269 S.E.2d 867 (1980).
INJUNCTION WILL NOT BE GRANTED TO RESTRAIN SLANDER OR LIBEL, WHEN THERE IS NO INFRINGEMENT OF PROPERTY RIGHT. McFarlan v. Manget, 179 Ga. 17, 174 S.E. 712 (1934).
JOINT CAUSE OF ACTION FOR LIBEL. --Allegation in a petition in a suit for libel that a writing, which it was alleged was libelous, was written and signed by both defendants on a check issued by one of the defendants, was an allegation of the commission of a joint act by both defendants, and showed a joint, and a joint and several, cause of action. Piedmont Cotton Mills v. James, 59 Ga. App. 239, 200 S.E. 457 (1938).
PLEADING OF LIBELOUS WORDS. --Failure to copy the libel in the declaration, or to set forth its words according to their exact tenor, is only bad pleading in matter of form. Such a defect is amendable. White v. Parks & Co., 93 Ga. 633, 20 S.E. 78 (1894).
PLEADING LIBEL BY INNUENDO. --The distinction between pleading libel per se and pleading libel by use of words of covert meaning is that in the former no innuendo need be alleged, the words themselves, if in fact untrue, being a sufficient basis for the action, while in the latter, it is necessary that the pleader allege that a covert meaning attached to the words and that the words were understood by the readers in the covert sense, which was untrue in fact. Grayson v. Savannah News-Press, Inc., 110 Ga. App. 561, 139 S.E.2d 347 (1964).
When charging libel by innuendo or because of a covert meaning it is essential that the pleader allege what the covert meaning is and that the author of the libel intended the statements in the article to be so understood, and that they were in fact so understood by those who read it. Griffin v. Branch, 116 Ga. App. 627, 158 S.E.2d 452 (1967).
PLEADING OF MALICE. --After a consumer appealed a district court's Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) of a defamation claim against a bank, the consumer's complaint did not make any allegation of malice. Boyd v. Experian Info. Sol., Inc., No. 17-10166, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 10163 (11th Cir. June 8, 2017).
NOTICE AND OPPORTUNITY TO BE HEARD. --Trial court erred in granting summary judgment on an election candidate's claim for defamation by a radio broadcast as the candidate did not have a full and fair opportunity to meet and attempt to controvert the assertions with respect to that claim. Howard v. Pope, 282 Ga. App. 137, 637 S.E.2d 854 (2006).
WHEN LANGUAGE USED IS CAPABLE OF BEING UNDERSTOOD IN DOUBLE SENSE, PLAINTIFF MAY, BY INNUENDO, AVER MEANING WITH WHICH THE PLAINTIFF THINKS IT WAS PUBLISHED, and the jury may find whether the publication was made with that meaning or not. Piedmont Cotton Mills v. James, 59 Ga. App. 239, 200 S.E. 457 (1938); Sheley v. Southeastern Newspapers, Inc., 87 Ga. App. 167, 73 S.E.2d 211 (1952).
When the writing may be understood by the average reader in either of two senses, it is proper to allege in what sense it was actually understood by the reader. Floyd v. Atlanta Newspapers, Inc., 102 Ga. App. 840, 117 S.E.2d 906 (1960).
DEFENSE OF PRIVILEGE IS NOT DEFENSE THAT MUST BE AFFIRMATIVELY PLED nor specifically pled and is sufficiently raised by motion to dismiss under Ga. L. 1972, p. 689, §§ 4 and 5 (see now O.C.G.A. § 9-11-12(b)). Europa Hair, Inc. v. Browning, 133 Ga. App. 753, 212 S.E.2d 862 (1975).
WHEN ARTICLE IN ACTION FOR LIBEL WAS NOT LIBELOUS FOR ANY REASON URGED BY THE PLAINTIFF, the court did not err in dismissing petition on general demurrer (now motion to dismiss). Aiken v. May, 73 Ga. App. 502, 37 S.E.2d 225 (1946).
If words in an action for libel are incapable of the meaning ascribed to the words by the innuendo, and are prima facie not actionable, the judge at the trial may stop the case. Aiken v. May, 73 Ga. App. 502, 37 S.E.2d 225 (1946).
If the petition fails to set out a cause of action for any reason, it is the duty of the trial court to dismiss it on general demurrer (now motion to dismiss). Aiken v. May, 73 Ga. App. 502, 37 S.E.2d 225 (1946).
TRIAL JUDGE DECISION ON LIBEL. --A trial judge may adjudge and determine, as a matter of law, that a writing complained of in a libel suit is not libelous. Aiken v. May, 73 Ga. App. 502, 37 S.E.2d 225 (1946).
When words in an action for libel are not libelous per se, and, in the light of the extrinsic facts averred, could not possibly be construed to have a defamatory meaning, the judge may dismiss the declaration on demurrer (now motion to dismiss), or, during the trial, may withdraw the case from the jury. Aiken v. May, 73 Ga. App. 502, 37 S.E.2d 225 (1946).
Although the general rule is that it is for a jury to determine whether or not the alleged libelous publication was in fact libelous and whether or not it concerned the plaintiff, since there is no connection between the alleged libelous publication and the plaintiff, either directly or by way of colloquium, it is not error for the trial judge to decide the case as a matter of law. Willis v. Upshaw, 95 Ga. App. 241, 97 S.E.2d 520 (1957).
If the petition shows on its face that the printed matter is either true or privileged a general demurrer (now motion to dismiss) to the petition will lie for the reason that the petition on the petition's face sets out no cause of action. Savannah News-Press, Inc. v. Harley, 100 Ga. App. 387, 111 S.E.2d 259 (1959).
In an action for libel, when the alleged defamatory words are as a matter of law not actionable per se, and when the petition does not set out any proper or legitimate item of special damage, and when it fails to allege by way of innuendo that the words complained of convey a covert meaning, wholly different from the ordinary and natural interpretation usually put upon them, and that the author of the libel intended them to be understood in their covert sense, and that they were in fact so understood by those who read them, the petition does not set out a cause of action and should be dismissed on general demurrer (now motion to dismiss). Hardboard Mach. Co. v. Coastal Prods. Corp., 289 F. Supp. 496 (M.D. Ga. 1967), aff'd, 398 F.2d 833 (5th Cir. 1968).
Georgia law clearly does not contemplate submission of the question of liability when no ambiguity appears and the statements are not libelous per se. Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. v. Miller, 398 F.2d 218 (5th Cir. 1968).
IN LIBEL CASES, WHEN NO SUBSTANTIAL DANGER TO REPUTATION IS APPARENT, SUMMARY JUDGMENT IS APPROPRIATE since the press should be more carefully guarded against exposure to liability for defamation than when clearly defamatory content warns it of liability. Southard v. Forbes, Inc., 588 F.2d 140 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 832, 100 S. Ct. 62, 62 L. Ed. 2d 42 (1979).
BECAUSE OF IMPORTANCE OF FREE SPEECH, SUMMARY JUDGMENT IS RULE, AND NOT EXCEPTION, IN DEFAMATION CASES. Rosanova v. Playboy Enters., Inc., 411 F. Supp. 440 (S.D. Ga. 1976), aff'd, 580 F.2d 859 (5th Cir. 1978).
ALLEGATION THAT EXONERATED PRISONER REMAINED UNDER INDICTMENT. --Former prisoner's complaint against a district attorney alleged facts that would constitute libel per se: the complaint alleged that the DA falsely stated in writing that the prisoner remained under indictment for kidnapping and rape. However, in the prisoner's suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the DA had qualified immunity because the prisoner's right to be free from retaliation by defamation for the exercise of the DA's right to petition was not clearly established. Echols v. Lawton, 913 F.3d 1313 (11th Cir. 2019).
QUESTION WHETHER PARTICULAR PUBLICATION IS LIBELOUS IS QUESTION OF FACT FOR DETERMINATION BY JURY. Constitution Publishing Co. v. Leathers, 48 Ga. App. 429, 172 S.E. 923, later appeal, 50 Ga. App. 137, 177 S.E. 261 (1934); Mead v. True Citizen, Inc., 203 Ga. App. 361, 417 S.E.2d 16 (1992).
Whenever the words spoken or published are susceptible of two constructions, one of which would make them libelous and the other not, it is for the jury to say whether in fact the words are libelous. Beazley v. Reid, 68 Ga. 380 (1882); Colvard v. Black, 110 Ga. 642, 36 S.E. 80 (1900); Jones v. Poole, 62 Ga. App. 309, 8 S.E.2d 532 (1940); Brandon v. Arkansas Fuel Oil Co., 64 Ga. App. 139, 12 S.E.2d 414 (1940); World Ins. Co. v. Peavy, 110 Ga. App. 651, 139 S.E.2d 440 (1964).
When the language of a publication is reasonably susceptible of the construction that it makes a libelous charge, it becomes libelous when it conveys that charge and would be so understood by the persons to whom the writing might be communicated; and ordinarily it is for the jury to say whether the writing is in fact libelous or not. Western Union Tel. Co. v. Vickers, 71 Ga. App. 204, 30 S.E.2d 440 (1944).
Whether the words used in an alleged publication were libelous or not is, in Georgia, generally a question for the jury. Walker v. Sheehan, 80 Ga. App. 606, 56 S.E.2d 628 (1949); Atlanta Journal Co. v. Doyal, 82 Ga. App. 321, 60 S.E.2d 802 (1950); Hartridge v. Savannah News-Press, Inc., 107 Ga. App. 274, 129 S.E.2d 536 (1963).
If a publication claimed to be defamatory is capable of two meanings, one of which would be libelous and actionable and the other not, it is for the jury to say, under all the circumstances surrounding its publication, including extraneous facts admissible in evidence, which of the two meanings would be attributed to it by those to whom it is addressed or by whom it may be read. Grayson v. Savannah News-Press, Inc., 110 Ga. App. 561, 139 S.E.2d 347 (1964).
If a publication has no necessarily defamatory meaning, but can be understood in more than one way, one of which is defamatory, then it is for the jury to decide if, on the basis of some innuendo resulting from the circumstances surrounding the publication, the publication in fact had that defamatory meaning. Southard v. Forbes, Inc., 588 F.2d 140 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 832, 100 S. Ct. 62, 62 L. Ed. 2d 42 (1979).
As a general rule, the question of whether a particular publication is libelous is a question for the jury, but if its meaning is not ambiguous and can reasonably have but one interpretation, the question is one of law for the judge. Morrison v. Hayes, 176 Ga. App. 128, 335 S.E.2d 596 (1985).
Issue of whether the words used in a letter written by a former employee of a firm to customers about the firm's new owners were defamatory was subject to more than one interpretation and, thus, was an issue for jury determination. John D. Robinson Corp. v. Southern Marine & Indus. Supply Co., 196 Ga. App. 402, 395 S.E.2d 837 (1990).
IT IS FOR JURY TO SAY WHETHER WORDS AS APPLIED TO THE PLAINTIFF WERE IN FACT LIBEL, that is, whether they were understood and taken in a libelous sense. Hardboard Mach. Co. v. Coastal Prods. Corp., 289 F. Supp. 496 (M.D. Ga. 1967), aff'd, 398 F.2d 833 (5th Cir. 1968).
WHETHER LIBELOUS MATTER REFERRED TO THE PLAINTIFF OR TO ANOTHER PERSON WAS QUESTION OF FACT FOR JURY to determine, in considering all the facts and circumstances, including the manner of publication. Walker v. Sheehan, 80 Ga. App. 606, 56 S.E.2d 628 (1949); Atlanta Journal Co. v. Doyal, 82 Ga. App. 321, 60 S.E.2d 802 (1950).
EFFECT OF WORDS ON PUBLIC ALSO JURY QUESTION. --The question as to what effect would be produced upon the public by reading the words employed in the publication, and the question whether or not the tendency of the alleged publication was to bring the petitioner into hatred, contempt, or ridicule, is an issue of fact for the jury, and not a matter to be determined as a matter of law by the court. As a general rule, the question whether a particular publication is libelous, as well as whether the alleged libelous matter was published of and concerning the plaintiff, is a matter of fact to be determined by the jury. Atlanta Journal Co. v. Doyal, 82 Ga. App. 321, 60 S.E.2d 802 (1950).
WHEN WORDS IN ACTION FOR LIBEL ARE LIBELOUS PER SE, JUDGE CAN SO INSTRUCT JURY, leaving to it only determination of amount of damages. Aiken v. May, 73 Ga. App. 502, 37 S.E.2d 225 (1946).
IT IS ERROR TO CHARGE THE JURY THAT AN IMPUTATION OF PERJURY IS ACTIONABLE PER SE, since the words in their ordinary sense did not mean legal or criminal perjury. Hugh v. McCarty, 40 Ga. 444 (1869).
QUESTION WHETHER LIBEL REFERRED TO ENTIRE CLASS, OR TO SOME PARTICULAR ONE IN IT, WAS FOR JURY. Hardy v. Williamson, 86 Ga. 551, 12 S.E. 874 (1891).
DEFENDANT'S SUMMARY QUESTION OF WHETHER CHARACTER PORTRAYED PLAINTIFF WAS FOR JURY. --With regard to a person's defamation suit against a book author and a publisher, the trial court properly denied the motions for summary judgment filed by the author and the publisher as the character in the book at issue shared 26 similarities with the person, the person was acknowledged to have been the inspiration for the character and, therefore, the person was permitted to prove that, despite the fictional label, the character bore such a close resemblance to the person that a jury could reasonably conclude that the character was intended to portray the person. Smith v. Stewart, 291 Ga. App. 86, 660 S.E.2d 822 (2008).
TRUTHFULNESS OF STATEMENTS MADE ABOUT DEFENDANT is question of fact for the jury. Hub Motor Co. v. Zurawski, 157 Ga. App. 850, 278 S.E.2d 689 (1981).
JURY ISSUE ON LIABILITY OF PARENTS FOR TEEN'S SOCIAL NETWORKING PAGE. --In a libel action involving a teen creating a disparaging social networking page about another teen, the trial court erred by granting the posting teen's parents summary judgment because a reasonable jury could find that the parents proximately caused some part of the victim's injuries by allowing the false and offensive statements to remain on display and continue to reach readers for an additional 11 months after learning of the teen's actions. Boston v. Athearn, 329 Ga. App. 890, 764 S.E.2d 582 (2014).
ERRONEOUS INSTRUCTIONS ON LIBEL. --Jury was incorrectly instructed that in order to find the defendant magazine liable for libel, the malicious statements must have been "deliberately calculated to injure"; the natural and plain connotation of the phrase incorrectly suggests that the jury must find that the defendant subjectively intended to injure the plaintiff as a prerequisite for liability. Schafer v. Time, Inc., 142 F.3d 1361 (11th Cir. 1998).
IT IS NOT LIBELOUS PER SE TO REFER TO ONE AS A DIVORCED MAN. Duncan v. Credit Serv. Exch., 56 Ga. App. 551, 193 S.E. 591 (1937).
IT IS NOT LIBELOUS TO CHARGE PERSON WITH DOING OF THING WHICH PERSON MAY LEGALLY AND PROPERLY DO. Garland v. State, 211 Ga. 44, 84 S.E.2d 9 (1954); Grayson v. Savannah News-Press, Inc., 110 Ga. App. 561, 139 S.E.2d 347 (1964).
TO CHARGE PERSON IN WRITING WITH COMMITTING FORGERY IS ACTIONABLE PER SE, WHEN WRITING IS READ BY OTHERS AND CHARGE IS UNTRUE. Western Union Tel. Co. v. Vickers, 71 Ga. App. 204, 30 S.E.2d 440 (1944).
UNFAVORABLE COMMERCIAL PUBLICITY AS SUCH IS NOT DEFAMATION, SINCE IT LACKS ELEMENT OF PERSONAL DISGRACE NECESSARY FOR DEFAMATION. Southard v. Forbes, Inc., 588 F.2d 140 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 832, 100 S. Ct. 62, 62 L. Ed. 2d 42 (1979).
STATEMENT THAT PERFORMANCE OF CONTRACT WAS INADEQUATE. --The defendant city commissioner was entitled to summary judgment on a cause of action for defamation based on commissioner's statement that the plaintiff corporation's performance on a contract was inadequate since such statement was an opinion, subjective by definition, and was not capable of being proved false. Info. Sys. & Networks Corp. v. City of Atlanta, 281 F.3d 1220 (11th Cir. 2002).
STATEMENT TO EMPLOYER ON MEDICAL CONDITION. --An action for libel encompasses an expression in writing of a false and malicious defamation which tends to harm a person's reputation or would cause a person to be subject to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule. A hospital administrator's letter to the medical director's direct employer stating the medical director had been diagnosed with an infectious disease did not amount to actionable libel because it conveyed the truth, did not involve a publication, and was made in good faith. Nelson v. Glynn-Brunswick Hosp. Auth., 257 Ga. App. 571, 571 S.E.2d 557 (2002).
EMPLOYER'S REPORT OF EMPLOYEE'S SUSPECTED THEFT TO POLICE. --Even if a former employee was able to prove the elements of defamation under O.C.G.A. § 51-5-1(a), the employer was protected against the employee's defamation claims by the privilege outlined in O.C.G.A. § 51-5-7(3) because the employer acted in good faith in filing a loss report with the police when the employee, a pharmacist, was seen on a hidden camera taking hydrocodone pills from the employer's pharmacy and admitted to doing so, and 92% of the employer's medication losses occurred when the employee was working. McIntyre v. Eckerd Corp., 251 Fed. Appx. 621 (11th Cir. 2007).
ACTION MAY EXIST FOR DEFAMATION OF BUSINESS OR TRADE. --The privilege of free speech does not confer upon one individual the right to use that privilege to the injury of another and if one prints or publishes words concerning another, or one's business, which are themselves false, the law will presume that it was done maliciously, and award damages accordingly. Ajouelo v. Auto-Soler Co., 61 Ga. App. 216, 6 S.E.2d 415 (1939); Hayes v. Irwin, 541 F. Supp. 397 (N.D. Ga. 1982), aff'd, 729 F.2d 1466 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 857, 105 S. Ct. 185, 83 L. Ed. 2d 119 (1984).
Petition in suit for damages for libel, in which the petitioner denied that the petitioner was a bankrupt, as had been stated, and alleged special damages to the petitioner's business by the publication of the alleged false and malicious report, was good against general demurrer (now motion to dismiss). Duncan v. Credit Serv. Exch., 56 Ga. App. 551, 193 S.E. 591 (1937).
Petition which alleged that the defendant placed or pasted on the front windows and door of the plaintiff's place of business, which was located on a main business street, four red cards about four by six inches on which was printed in large bold type the libelous matter, and that such pasted and published notices were read by certain named individuals, sufficiently alleged publication of the libelous matter. Walker v. Sheehan, 80 Ga. App. 606, 56 S.E.2d 628 (1949).
LOST BUSINESS PROFITS RECOVERABLE. --Amendment seeking to recover as special damages lost earnings of the plaintiff's business did not seek to recover future profits and was not, therefore, subject to that objection. Walker v. Sheehan, 80 Ga. App. 606, 56 S.E.2d 628 (1949).
ADVERTISEMENTS BETWEEN TWO COMPETING COMPANIES. --Statements made by the plaintiff were privileged communications, so the plaintiff was entitled to summary judgment against the defendants' counterclaims for libel. Hickson Corp. v. N. Crossarm Co., 235 F. Supp. 2d 1352 (N.D. Ga. 2002).
LIBEL ACTION MAY BE BROUGHT BY CORPORATION DAMAGED BY FALSE INFORMATION SUPPLIED TO ADVERTISERS. --Georgia's libel statute did not preclude a corporation, as opposed to an individual, from bringing a libel action against a rival competitor based on allegations that the rival maliciously published false information to the advertisers that injured the standing and business reputation of the corporation and exposed the corporation to ridicule in the business and public communities. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Hernandez Auto Painting & Body Works, 312 Ga. App. 756, 719 S.E.2d 597 (2011).
SUIT AGAINST CORPORATION FOR AGENT'S LIBEL MUST ALLEGE VICARIOUS LIABILITY. --In a suit against a corporation for a libel by one of its agents, when the libelous matter is otherwise sufficiently set forth, an allegation that the libel by the agent was within the scope of the company's business and in the course of the agent's employment is sufficient to charge the corporation with libel. World Ins. Co. v. Peavy, 110 Ga. App. 651, 139 S.E.2d 440 (1964).
CREDITOR HAS RIGHT TO ASK DEBTOR TO PAY WHAT THE DEBTOR OWES WITHOUT BEING SUBJECT TO ACTION FOR LIBEL. McCravy v. Schneer's, 47 Ga. App. 703, 171 S.E. 391 (1933).
A mere written statement that a person who is not engaged in a vocation which requires credit fails and refuses to pay a debt, and which does not affect the person in the person's business or profession, and which does not impute insolvency to the person, but which is made to the person's employer solely for the purpose of urging the employer to induce the alleged debtor to make payment of the debt, is not libelous per se, and does not render the author of the statement liable without proof of special damage. Estes v. Sterchi Bros. Stores, 50 Ga. App. 619, 179 S.E. 222 (1935).
FALSE AND LIBELOUS CREDIT REPORT cannot be held to invade person's right to privacy by placing the person in false light in public eye unless it is disseminated in public. Peacock v. Retail Credit Co., 302 F. Supp. 418 (N.D. Ga. 1969), aff'd, 429 F.2d 31 (5th Cir. 1970), cert. denied, 401 U.S. 938, 91 S. Ct. 927, 28 L. Ed. 2d 217 (1971).
ALLEGATIONS REGARDING CREDIT REPORT INSUFFICIENT TO SUPPORT ACTION. --In suit for libel based on the furnishings to several loan companies of a credit report, allegations in the petition that certain amounts represented by the defendant's report to be owed by the plaintiff were not legal obligations, that certain debts had been paid, and that one loan was being paid on, without indication of when such payments were made, were subject to general demurrer (now motion to dismiss). Duncan v. Credit Serv. Exch., 56 Ga. App. 551, 193 S.E. 591 (1937).
When the borrowers relied on the lender's report to credit bureaus of a default on a sale contract and of the amounts remaining due and owing for their libel counterclaim, but there was no evidence that the report was either false or maliciously made, the trial court properly granted summary judgment to the lenders. Reeder v. GMAC, 235 Ga. App. 617, 510 S.E.2d 337 (1998).
Debtor's defamation claim, under O.C.G.A. § 51-5-1(a), against a creditor for reporting the creditor's repossession of collateral from the debtor to the credit reporting agencies, was properly summarily dismissed because such a claim was preempted by the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq., absent the creditor's malice or willful intent to injure the debtor, which were not shown. Corbin v. Regions Bank, 258 Ga. App. 490, 574 S.E.2d 616 (2002).
Lender did not commit libel against a borrower under O.C.G.A. § 51-5-1(a) when the lender posted a foreclosure notice or when the lender reported late payments to a credit reporting agency because the borrower did not allege that the lender made any false statements. Steed v. EverHome Mortg. Co., 308 Fed. Appx. 364 (11th Cir. 2009).
PUBLICATION IMPLYING CRIMINAL RECORD. --Petition for damages, which alleges that the defendant published a writing that the plaintiff was "wanted for forgery" at a named place, and that the writing directly or by innuendo charged the plaintiff with having committed the offense of forgery at such place, and was an untrue and malicious defamation of the plaintiff, set out a cause of action for libel. Western Union Tel. Co. v. Vickers, 71 Ga. App. 204, 30 S.E.2d 440 (1944).
When alleged libelous matter consisted of a circular, partly in printing and containing a picture of the plaintiff with a placard across the plaintiff's chest with a number in large white numerals on it, the court did not err in allowing the witnesses to testify as to the impression made upon them by the circular. Western Union Tel. Co. v. Vickers, 71 Ga. App. 204, 30 S.E.2d 440 (1944).
Summary judgment not permitted when the evidence would have permitted a jury to find that the publishers knew that the assertion was false or published with a reckless disregard for the truth and that, therefore, the defendants had acted with malice. Douglas v. Maddox, 233 Ga. App. 744, 505 S.E.2d 43 (1998).
Verdict awarding general damages in a libel suit filed by an attorney against a former client, which showed that the client published facts intimating that the attorney bribed judges, contrary to O.C.G.A. § 16-10-2, was upheld as: (1) the jury could reasonably conclude that the attorney was a limited public figure, and was properly charged on that issue; (2) the client failed to seek any remedy regarding the verdict entered; (3) the trial court did not err in prohibiting the client from offering testimony about corrupt individuals who were exposed as a result of the publication about the attorney; and (4) based on the evidence of the publication on the client's web site, neither a directed verdict or judgment notwithstanding the verdict in the client's favor was authorized. Milum v. Banks, 283 Ga. App. 864, 642 S.E.2d 892 (2007).
CAMPAIGN LITERATURE IMPLYING CRIMINAL RECORD. --In a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit by political opponents of a sheriff who, the opponents claimed, libeled the opponents by identifying them as criminals in campaign literature, a majority of the defamatory statements were protected by the First Amendment as rhetorical hyperbole, except for a flier displaying a mug shot of one of the citizens with a caption falsely identifying that citizen as a "convicted" criminal; being patently false, the latter statement was actionable under O.C.G.A. § 51-5-1 because only truth was a defense under O.C.G.A. § 51-5-6. Bennett v. Hendrix, 325 Fed. Appx. 727 (11th Cir. 2009).
SPECULATION ON LAUNDERING OF MONEY. --Looking at the broadcast as a whole, any defamatory implication that money flowed through the company to terrorists was presented as mere speculation. Any further implication that the company acted knowingly in laundering money to assist terrorists or terrorist groups remained so unspoken that it, too, could only be speculation and surmise. Mar-Jac Poultry, Inc. v. Katz, No. (RMC), 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33582 (DC Mar. 30, 2011).
LETTER SETTING FORTH BOARD MEMBER'S JUDGMENTS, TAX LIENS, AND CRIMES. --In a defamation suit brought by a board member of a vacation resort community owners' association against a property owner who wrote a letter detailing the board member's civil judgments, tax liens, and criminal charges, the trial court properly granted the property owner summary judgment as the statements regarding the judgments, tax liens, and criminal charges were garnered from public records and were true. Additionally, the property owner's assessment that the board member was not fit to manage the association's funds if the board member was not able to manage personal finances was the opinion of the property owner and served no basis for the defamation action. McCall v. Couture, 293 Ga. App. 305, 666 S.E.2d 637 (2008).
EMAIL STATEMENTS TO COUNTY OFFICIALS DID NOT ALLEGE SPECIFIC CRIME. --In an email to a county official, the defendants' statements characterizing the plaintiffs as without morals and as mean, vulgar, demeaning crooks were not actionable as the statements did not allege a specific crime, and the statements constituted expressions of opinion. Swanson Towing & Recovery, LLC v. Wrecker 1, Inc., 342 Ga. App. 6, 802 S.E.2d 300 (2017).
EMPLOYEE'S PERSONNEL RECORD. --When there was a notation upon a former employee's personnel record in the file of a corporate employer that the employee was "discharged for shortages," if defamatory, constitutes a privileged communication, this fact does not prevent its oral publication by an employee from constituting the publication of a libel rather than the commission of slander, an oral defamation. Southland Corp. v. Garren, 138 Ga. App. 246, 225 S.E.2d 920, rev'd on other grounds, 237 Ga. 484, 228 S.E.2d 870 (1976).
TEENAGER'S PROMISCUITY. --Summary judgment was properly entered for the newspaper defendants on a teenager's claim for false light invasion of privacy as even assuming that the articles painted the teenager in a false light as promiscuous, the teenager could not recover on the claim as the circumstances of the death of a young man in the city attorney's pool were of public interest and concern. Torrance v. Morris Publ'g Group, LLC, 281 Ga. App. 563, 636 S.E.2d 740 (2006), cert. denied, 2007 Ga. LEXIS 160 (Ga. 2007).
DEFAMATION OF JUDGE OR JURY. --A publication which tends to impeach the integrity and honesty of jurors or judges in their office, and which denounces a verdict or judgment as infamous, is directed at the individuals and is libelous. Piedmont Cotton Mills v. James, 59 Ga. App. 239, 200 S.E. 457 (1938).
IT IS LIBELOUS AND ACTIONABLE PER SE TO CHARGE JUDGE WITH UNFITNESS IN OFFICE AND IMPROPER CONDUCT IN TRYING CASES. Piedmont Cotton Mills v. James, 59 Ga. App. 239, 200 S.E. 457 (1938).
IT IS LIBELOUS PER SE TO CHARGE JUSTICE OF PEACE WITH GIVING FALSE JUDGMENT. Piedmont Cotton Mills v. James, 59 Ga. App. 239, 200 S.E. 457 (1938).
DEFAMATION OF LEGISLATOR. --To publish that a member of the General Assembly was very closely allied with some criminal or corrupt organization might be a reflection upon the member's integrity, motives, and character, and possibly would expose the member to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule, but language that the plaintiff was very closely allied with the labor unions, and used the member's influence in every way possible to secure the enactment of bills sponsored by organized labor, cast no imputation upon the plaintiff's character and was not actionable per se. Anderson v. Kennedy, 47 Ga. App. 380, 170 S.E. 555 (1933).
DEFAMATION OF POLITICAL CANDIDATE. --Charging a candidate with being unfaithful to the party which has nominated the candidate and with conniving with an opposing party for support has been held not libelous, although the rule is otherwise if a charge of treachery and dishonesty is made against the candidate. Watkins v. Augusta Chronicle Publishing Co., 49 Ga. App. 43, 174 S.E. 199 (1934).
That publications respecting political affairs, public officers and candidates for office are in a measure privileged is recognized by the overwhelming weight of authority. One who seeks public office, or any person who claims approval or patronage from the public, waives one's right of privacy. Watkins v. Augusta Chronicle Publishing Co., 49 Ga. App. 43, 174 S.E. 199 (1934).
Trial court erroneously granted summary judgment against an election candidate, and in favor of the incumbent, on the former's defamation claims stemming from a printed newspaper advertisement, as issues of fact remained as to the actual malice exhibited by the incumbent in publishing the advertisement and the flagrant accusations stated therein went beyond the criticism, hostility, and unfairness a candidate might expect to encounter while running for political office. Howard v. Pope, 282 Ga. App. 137, 637 S.E.2d 854 (2006).
CHARGE THAT PERSON HAS VIOLATED TRADE CODE, WHEN IT APPEARS THAT NO SUCH CODE WAS IN EXISTENCE, is not actionable libel or slander. Vandhitch v. Alverson, 52 Ga. App. 308, 183 S.E. 105 (1935).
An averment that the defendants falsely and fraudulently caused news items to be published in the papers to the effect that the plaintiff had violated the barbers' code adopted by the National Recovery Administration, and had been guilty of unfair practices under that code, failed to show any actionable libel, since it was further alleged that the federal government refused to accept the proposed code, and returned the plaintiff's acceptance of that code with the advice that it was of no effect. Vandhitch v. Alverson, 52 Ga. App. 308, 183 S.E. 105 (1935).
LIBEL BY WILL. --If a paper executed as a will expresses libelous matter, and the act of the executor in propounding the will is relied on to complete the offense and afford ground for recovery against the estate, such reliance must fail because the testator has died and if it be said that the act of the executor in propounding the will could be taken into account, the reply is that the executor was a creature or agency of the law to administer the estate, and was not the testator's representative in the continuation or consummation of the testator's wrong. Citizens' & S. Nat'l Bank v. Hendricks, 176 Ga. 692, 168 S.E. 313 (1933).
LIBEL PER QUOD. --Because the record established that the plaintiffs did not sustain any financial or economic damage as a result of the inclusion of this advertisement in the seminar material, the plaintiffs had no claim for libel per quod. Zarach v. Atlanta Claims Ass'n., 231 Ga. App. 685, 500 S.E.2d 1 (1998).
STATEMENTS MADE IN GOOD FAITH PERFORMANCE OF PRIVATE DUTY. --Because a report and videotape prepared by an investigator in connection with the plaintiff's workers compensation claim were privileged communications, the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment against the plaintiff on a defamation claim arising from production of the report and videotape. Ass'n Servs., Inc. v. Smith, 249 Ga. App. 629, 549 S.E.2d 454 (2001).
LETTER BY VENDOR'S ATTORNEY ALLEGING DAMAGES TO PROPERTY. --Letter sent by vendor's attorney alleging that, after collapse of sales transaction, property had been found to have been damaged by purchaser, was not libelous per se since the letter made no reference to the property having been intentionally or criminally damaged as contemplated by the criminal statute. Morrison v. Hayes, 176 Ga. App. 128, 335 S.E.2d 596 (1985).
A POSTED NOTICE INTENDED FOR STORE EMPLOYEES stating that the plaintiff "is not allowed in the store" did not support an action for defamation when such words did not tend to injure the plaintiff's reputation or expose the plaintiff to "public hatred, contempt, or ridicule." Chance v. Munford, Inc., 178 Ga. App. 252, 342 S.E.2d 746 (1986).
IMPUTATION OF CRIME. --When the defendant included in a writing a statement saying that the defendant was not saying the plaintiffs were responsible for shooting the defendant's cat, it did not negate the other portions of the writing, including the statement that the plaintiffs were the "prime suspects" in a police investigation, which the jury was entitled to conclude was the equivalent of imputing a crime to the plaintiffs. Harcrow v. Struhar, 236 Ga. App. 403, 511 S.E.2d 545 (1999).
NEWSPAPER ARTICLE AND HEADLINE. --In an action by a contractor against a newspaper and the newspaper's editor because: (1) the average reader would have interpreted a printed headline's use of the term "rape" as an attempt to convey the severity of the damage to the land that the contractor inflicted rather than to characterize the contractor's conduct that resulted in the damage as criminal; and (2) the article referred to by the headline did not constitute libel per se as the editor unquestionably did not intend, and readers did not interpret, the word "rape" as having any sexual connotation in the context used in the article, the editor and the newspaper were properly granted summary judgment as to the contractor's libel and libel per se claims. Lucas v. Cranshaw, 289 Ga. App. 510, 659 S.E.2d 612 (2008).
WHEN THE OVERALL TONE OF A NEWSPAPER ARTICLE ABOUT THE PLAINTIFFS' APPARENT INTEREST IN DRUG FIGURES might lead the average reader to believe that the plaintiffs were in one way or another linked with the drug trafficker in some illicit capacity, an issue of fact was created which precluded summary judgment in the libel action. Southland Publishing Co. v. Brogdon, 179 Ga. App. 726, 347 S.E.2d 694 (1986).
REPORTER MISTAKEN ABOUT CRIME NOT LIBEL. --In a libel suit, a former city employee who was indicted for theft did not show that a reporter acted with actual malice in writing that the employee pled guilty to a felony, when the employee actually pled nolo contendere to a misdemeanor, and that the employee paid $4,700 in restitution for funds the employee "stole," when the restitution order did not give the purpose of the restitution. The reporter stated that the reporter had been "mixed up" about the nature of the plea and thought that the crime was a felony because the restitution exceeded $500; the only indication on the indictment, which was on felony charges, that the employee pled guilty to lesser charges was a small handwritten note; and the reporter's conclusion that the restitution was to replace stolen money was a reasonable inference drawn from the indictment, which charged the employee with theft by taking. Furthermore, the employee did not show that the newspaper acted with actual malice by leaving online for seven months an uncorrected version of the article that contained inaccurate statements about the employee's plea and restitution. Jones v. Albany Herald Publ'g Co., 290 Ga. App. 126, 658 S.E.2d 876 (2008).
REPORTER INADVERTENTLY WROTE WRONG NAME IN STORY. --Since the reporter who wrote the story testified in a deposition that the reporter reviewed the police report of the burglary and inadvertently looked at the wrong line and picked up the plaintiff's name from the report as the victim of the crime, and subsequently wrote a correction, which was published the following week in the next edition of the paper, the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment to the defendant in this libel action. Mead v. True Citizen, Inc., 203 Ga. App. 361, 417 S.E.2d 16 (1992).
NEWSPAPER CARTOON. --Since (1) an exaggerated cartoon character appearing in defendant newspaper was not recognizable as plaintiff; (2) the headline of the accompanying article did not refer to the plaintiff; and (3) the article did not in any way reflect upon the plaintiff or the plaintiff's employment, the plaintiff's claims of libel, libel per se, and invasion of privacy (false light and appropriation) were properly dismissed on summary judgment. Collins v. Creative Loafing Savannah, Inc., 264 Ga. App. 675, 592 S.E.2d 170 (2003).
PUBLICITY FROM BROADCAST. --Since publicity from the defendant's broadcast related solely to the operation of the plaintiff's business, the broadcast did not violate the plaintiff's right to be let alone and the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment on the plaintiff's claim. Jaillett v. Georgia TV Co., 238 Ga. App. 885, 520 S.E.2d 721 (1999).
ALLEGATION OF CRIMINAL ACTIVITY IN A RADIO BROADCAST BY ANONYMOUS CALLER. --Trial court erred in granting summary judgment to a media company in a defamation action pursuant to O.C.G.A. §§ 51-5-1 and 51-5-4; the trial court erred in finding that a musician was a public figure, as the musician was only known locally, and a false claim by an anonymous caller played on the air by a disc jockey was not a matter of public concern, and erred in finding that O.C.G.A. § 51-5-10(a) shielded the company, as there was an issue of fact as to whether the disc jockey made a defamatory statement as well. Riddle v. Golden Isles Broad., LLC, 275 Ga. App. 701, 621 S.E.2d 822 (2005).
FALSE REPORT OF DEATH. --Absent special circumstances, the publication of a false report of death, such as a false obituary, is not libelous per se, and it is not defamatory to say therein that a person is dead. Thomason v. Times-Journal, Inc., 190 Ga. App. 601, 379 S.E.2d 551 (1989).
ANNOUNCEMENT OF "RETIREMENT" OF DISCHARGED CONTRACTOR. --Company's announcement to its customers that the plaintiff had retired, when in fact the plaintiff had been terminated by the company, did not constitute defamation or libel; moreover, they were privileged, made in the best interests of the company, and were not shown to have been made with malice or in bad faith. Kitfield v. Henderson, Black & Greene, 231 Ga. App. 130, 498 S.E.2d 537 (1998).
A LETTER WRITTEN BY AN AGENT OF A CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION, MAILED TO THE HOMEOWNER-LESSOR OF THE CONDOMINIUM OCCUPIED BY THE PLAINTIFF was made only to one who had reason to receive the information which concerned the plaintiff's rental property and income and the plaintiff's duties and responsibilities to the condominium association and, therefore, did not constitute publication of the allegedly defamatory matter as required to state a cause of action for libel. Carter v. Willowrun Condominium Ass'n, 179 Ga. App. 257, 345 S.E.2d 924 (1986).
THE DIRECTOR OF A PROPERTY OWNERS' ASSOCIATION was not, either because of the director's stature in the community or because of the director's status as a candidate for re-election to the Board of Directors of the association, a "public figure" for all purposes. Sewell v. Eubanks, 181 Ga. App. 545, 352 S.E.2d 802 (1987).
Allegations in a mailer accusing the director of a property owners' association, who was also an employee of a local bank, of "posing as a property owner" and improperly "benefiting by reduced fees" tended to expose the director to public contempt for dishonest or even fraudulent activities, which actions could also be considered incompatible with the proper exercise of the banking business. Sewell v. Eubanks, 181 Ga. App. 545, 352 S.E.2d 802 (1987).
DOCUMENTS FOUND NOT TO BE LIBELOUS. See Mays v. Hospital Auth., 582 F. Supp. 425 (N.D. Ga. 1984).
DOCUMENTS FOUND NOT TO BE DEFAMATORY. --Plaintiffs did not demonstrate that the inclusion of the plaintiffs' ad in the defendant's seminar material was defamatory as a matter of law; no words accompanied ad explaining the purpose behind its inclusion in the material nor were there any words charging the plaintiffs with participating in insurance fraud or operating the plaintiffs' business in a criminal, dishonest, or immoral manner. Zarach v. Atlanta Claims Ass'n., 231 Ga. App. 685, 500 S.E.2d 1 (1998).
BANK'S REPORT THAT THE PLAINTIFF WAS DELINQUENT IN THE PLAINTIFF'S CREDIT CARD ACCOUNT, after the ex-spouse signed the plaintiff's name to the application for the account and, in fact, the plaintiff had no account with the bank, was not libelous per se. Smith v. First Nat'l Bank, 837 F.2d 1575 (11th Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 821, 109 S. Ct. 64, 102 L. Ed. 2d 41 (1988).
DISCLOSURE OF CONTAMINATED WATERWAYS WAS NOT ACTIONABLE. --Since the defendant did not misstate, mischaracterize, or misattribute the results of chemical tests revealing contamination of public waterways near the plaintiff's landfill operations, and since the defendant demanded and received a retraction upon a newspaper's accusation of the plaintiff, the statements were not actionable as a matter of law. Speedway Grading Corp. v. Gardner, 206 Ga. App. 439, 425 S.E.2d 676 (1992).
BOOK PUBLISHED IN RAMSEY CASE. --Book, concerning death of the employer's child, was not defamatory as a matter of law under O.C.G.A. § 51-5-1(a) because the statements indicated that the employer did not consider the housekeeper a suspect and stated that the housekeeper was a good, sweet person. Hoffman-Pugh v. Ramsey, 312 F.3d 1222 (11th Cir. 2002).
NO PHYSICAL INJURY FROM DEFAMATION IN BOOK. --With regard to a person's defamation suit against a book author, a publisher, and secondary publishers, the trial court erred by denying the motions for summary judgment filed by the author, the publisher, and the secondary publishers with regard to the person's claims asserting invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress claims as the invasion of privacy claim was encompassed by the defamation claim, and the person failed to show any evidence of a physical injury resulting from the alleged negligence. Smith v. Stewart, 291 Ga. App. 86, 660 S.E.2d 822 (2008).
PLAINTIFF FAILED TO ESTABLISH THAT PARENTS ENTERTAINED SERIOUS DOUBTS AS TO THE TRUTH. --In an action in which the plaintiff, who was named by the parents of a murdered child on national television and in the parents' book about their daughter's murder as a potential suspect, filed suit against the parents, asserting both a libel and slander claim, the parents were granted summary judgment on the libel claim; the plaintiff failed to establish that when the parents wrote the book, the parents in fact entertained serious doubts as to the truth of the publication. Wolf v. Ramsey, 253 F. Supp. 2d 1323 (N.D. Ga. 2003).
SCOUT LEADER. --Summary judgment dismissing the libel suit was error because when the letter was read as a whole, it could have been found libelous as tending to injure the Boy Scout troop leader's reputation and expose the leader to public hatred, contempt, and ridicule; an average reader could have reasonably construed it to state or imply that the troop leader was immoral because the leader found "nothing really wrong had occurred" when tobacco, alcohol, and pornography were distributed to scouts by a leader and scouts were sexually harassed or abused by a leader. Brittain v. Gast, 259 Ga. App. 124, 575 S.E.2d 899 (2003).
PLEADING OF LIBEL SUFFICIENT BASED ON CORPORATE ACTION. --Company and the owners stated a claim for libel under O.C.G.A. §§ 51-5-1 and 51-5-3 when the evidence at trial showed that the second corporation knew that the atomic absorption test results were unreliable and inaccurate, but reported those results to Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) anyway, which directly led to GDOT finding the company in default. Based on the chemist for the second corporation's testimony that the chemist's boss told the chemist that the samples came for the company, a reasonable jury could have found that the second corporation continued to perform the inaccurate testing for pecuniary gain, with the knowledge that the conduct would harm the company. Douglas Asphalt Co. v. Qore, Inc., No. CV206-229, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50141 (S.D. Ga. May 20, 2010).
E-MAIL STATEMENT RECITING FACTS ABOUT GOODS. --Trial court's grant of partial summary judgment in favor of an individual in an action by a distributor of manufactured log home packages for breach of contract and libel based on an e-mail was proper as the individual recited a number of factual statements regarding structural engineering, window and door sizing, and material costs which could be disputed by the distributor, but the distributor failed to present any evidence that those statements were not true. Barna Log Homes of Ga., Inc. v. Wischmann, 310 Ga. App. 844, 714 S.E.2d 402 (2011), cert. denied, No. S11C1800, 2012 Ga. LEXIS 218 (Ga. 2012).
TRUTHFUL SOCIAL MEDIA POSTINGS NOT DEFAMATION. --Judgment notwithstanding the verdict and directed verdicts in a defamation case were affirmed because the plaintiff was properly found to be a public figure in the spheres of running and Christian evangelism and there was no evidence of actual malice as to the social media postings, which alleged that the plaintiff was having multiple affairs with married women and had not completed all of the long distance runs, were true; there was no evidence of violations of O.C.G.A. § 16-9-93 or O.C.G.A. § 16-9-93.1. Bickerstaff v. SunTrust Bank, 299 Ga. 459, 788 S.E.2d 787 (2016), cert. denied, 137 S. Ct. 571, 196 L. Ed. 2d 447 (U.S. 2016).