2020 Georgia Code
Title 51 - Torts
Chapter 5 - Libel and Slander
§ 51-5-4. Slander Defined; When Special Damage Required; When Damage Inferred

Universal Citation: GA Code § 51-5-4 (2020)
  1. Slander or oral defamation consists in:
    1. Imputing to another a crime punishable by law;
    2. Charging a person with having some contagious disorder or with being guilty of some debasing act which may exclude him from society;
    3. Making charges against another in reference to his trade, office, or profession, calculated to injure him therein; or
    4. Uttering any disparaging words productive of special damage which flows naturally therefrom.
  2. In the situation described in paragraph (4) of subsection (a) of this Code section, special damage is essential to support an action; in the situations described in paragraphs (1) through (3) of subsection (a) of this Code section, damage is inferred.

(Orig. Code 1863, § 2919; Code 1868, § 2926; Code 1873, § 2977; Code 1882, § 2977; Civil Code 1895, § 3837; Civil Code 1910, § 4433; Code 1933, § 105-702.)

Cross references.

- Form to be used in action for words, § 9-10-204.

Law reviews.

- For article, "Defamation and Invasion of Privacy," see 27 Ga. St. B. J. 18 (1990). For annual survey article on tort law, see 50 Mercer L. Rev. 335 (1998). For survey article on law of torts, see 59 Mercer L. Rev. 397 (2007). For survey article on tort law, see 60 Mercer L. Rev. 375 (2008). For note, "The Great Escape: How One Plaintiff's Sidestep of a Mandatory Arbitration Clause Was Applied to a Class in Bickerstaff v. SunTrust Bank," see 68 Mercer L. Rev. 539 (2017). For comment on Braden v. Baugham, 74 Ga. App. 802, 41 S.E.2d 581 (1947), see 9 Ga. B. J. 456 (1947). For comment on Woolf v. Colonial Stores, Inc., 76 Ga. App. 565, 46 S.E.2d 620 (1948), see 11 Ga. B. J. 70 (1948). For comment discussing slander in reference to one's business or occupation, in light of Keefe v. O'Brien, 203 Misc. 113, 116 N.Y.S.2d 286 (S. Ct. 1952), holding that words accusing labor leader of communism insufficient to constitute slander per se as words did not concern person in his occupation, see 15 Ga. B. J. 357 (1953). For comment on American Broadcasting- Paramount Theatres, Inc. v. Simpson, 106 Ga. App. 230, 126 S.E.2d 873 (1962), see 25 Ga. B. J. 310 (1963). For comment on Hinkle v. Alexander, 244 Ore. 267, 417 P.2d 586 (1966), suggesting adoption by Georgia of a uniform rule on proof of damages in libel actions, see 18 Mercer L. Rev. 297 (1966).

JUDICIAL DECISIONS

ANALYSIS

  • General Consideration
  • Applicability to Specific Cases
General Consideration

This section is a codification of common law. Blackstock v. Fisher, 95 Ga. App. 117, 97 S.E.2d 322 (1957); Hardboard Mach. Co. v. Coastal Prods. Corp., 289 F. Supp. 496 (M.D. Ga. 1967), aff'd, 398 F.2d 833 (5th Cir. 1968).

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).

Word "trade" is sufficiently broad to include employment by another. Rogers v. Adams, 98 Ga. App. 155, 105 S.E.2d 364 (1958).

False statement about trade required.

- Slander per se pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 51-5-4(a)(3) is a false statement against a plaintiff in reference to the plaintiff's trade, office, or profession, calculated to injure the plaintiff therein. Crown Andersen, Inc. v. Ga. Gulf Corp., 251 Ga. App. 551, 554 S.E.2d 518 (2001).

Tort of trade libel not recognized under Georgia law.

- Georgia law did not recognize the tort of trade libel because the tort of trade libel overlapped with several torts already recognized under Georgia law, particularly defamation and tortious interference with business relations. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Hernandez Auto Painting & Body Works, 312 Ga. App. 756, 719 S.E.2d 597 (2011).

Scope of section.

- Under this section slander may consist in falsely and maliciously imputing to another a crime, charging one with having some contagious disorder, ascribing to one guilt of some debasing act which may exclude one from society (in all of which general damages may be forthcoming) or making charges against one calculated to injure one in one's trade, office, or profession, in which case special damages must be proved. Kaufman v. Atlanta Lawn Tennis Ass'n, 150 Ga. App. 315, 257 S.E.2d 383 (1979).

Words to be slanderous, must impute to another a crime punishable by law; or charge one having some contagious disorder, or being guilty of some debasing act which may exclude one from society; or a charge made against another with reference to one's trade, office, or profession calculated to injure one therein; or any disparaging words productive of special damages flowing naturally therefrom. In the last case, the special damage is essential to support the action; in the first three, damage is inferred. Anderson v. Fussell, 75 Ga. App. 866, 44 S.E.2d 694 (1947).

If the words spoken are ambiguous and are not understood by the one hearing them or intended, as imputing a crime; or charging the plaintiff with having some contagious disorder or being guilty of some debasing act, which may exclude the plaintiff from society; or charges made against the plaintiff in reference to the plaintiff's trade, office, or profession, calculated to injure the plaintiff therein, there can be no recovery unless special damages are shown. Southland Corp. v. Garren, 135 Ga. App. 77, 217 S.E.2d 347 (1975), rev'd on other grounds, 235 Ga. 784, 221 S.E.2d 571 (1976).

Elements of viable defamation claim.

- A viable defamation claim under Georgia law consists of: (1) a false and defamatory statement concerning the plaintiff: (2) an unprivileged communication to a third party; (3) fault by the defendant amounting at least to negligence; and (4) special harm or the action ability of the statement irrespective of special harm. Publication of the statement is imperative and, without publication, the defamation claim fails. Saye v. Deloitte & Touche, LLP, 295 Ga. App. 128, 670 S.E.2d 818 (2008).

Publication.

- Publication of a slander to a third person is sufficient. Pavlovski v. Thornton, 89 Ga. 829, 15 S.E. 822 (1892).

Generally, publication is accomplished by communication of the slander to anyone other than the person slandered. Kurtz v. Williams, 188 Ga. App. 14, 371 S.E.2d 878, cert. denied, 188 Ga. App. 912, 371 S.E.2d 878 (1988).

When the communication is intracorporate, or between members of unincorporated groups or associations, and is heard by one who, because of his/her duty or authority has reason to receive the information, there is no publication of the allegedly slanderous material, and without publication, there is no cause of action for slander. Kurtz v. Williams, 188 Ga. App. 14, 371 S.E.2d 878, cert. denied, 188 Ga. App. 912, 371 S.E.2d 878 (1988); Agee v. Huggins, 888 F. Supp. 1573 (N.D. Ga. 1995).

Single accusation of ignorance or lack of skill inadequate.

- Language imputing to a business or professional man ignorance or mistake on a single occasion and not accusing that individual of general ignorance or lack of skill is not slander per se under O.C.G.A. § 51-5-4(a)(3). Crown Andersen, Inc. v. Ga. Gulf Corp., 251 Ga. App. 551, 554 S.E.2d 518 (2001).

Slander per se under O.C.G.A. § 51-5-4(a)(3) is not shown when the statements at issue pertain only to a single instance. Crown Andersen, Inc. v. Ga. Gulf Corp., 251 Ga. App. 551, 554 S.E.2d 518 (2001).

Complaint failed to state claim for defamation.

- Although an ex-spouse's complaint described the ex-spouse's business ventures before asserting that the defendants inflicted injury to the ex-spouse's reputation, as the complaint pled neither a defamatory statement in reference to the ex-spouse's trade, office, or profession under O.C.G.A. § 51-5-4(a)(3), nor special damages under § 51-5-4(a), the defamation claims failed. Walker v. Walker, 293 Ga. App. 872, 668 S.E.2d 330 (2008).

Mortgage borrower failed to state a claim for slander based on a loan servicer's alleged communication of false information regarding the borrower's payment history to credit reporting agencies and an insurer; the borrower did not allege that the servicer made any oral statement to those third parties. The borrower did not state a claim for libel because the complaint did not sufficiently allege that any false written statements were made with malice. Stroman v. Bank of Am. Corp., 852 F. Supp. 2d 1366 (N.D. Ga. 2012).

Sufficiency of pleading.

- Because former bank employees had alleged defamatory statements that both imputed to the employees a crime punishable by law and made charges against the employees in reference to the employees' trade or profession, damage was presumed and the employees were not required to plead special damages on the employees' defamation claim against the bank and a supervisor. Nevertheless, to provide the bank and the supervisor with the notice they needed to defend against the claim, more specific facts regarding the content and context of the allegedly defamatory statements were required. Wylie v. Denton, 323 Ga. App. 161, 746 S.E.2d 689 (2013).

The doctrine of respondeat superior does not apply in slander cases, and a corporation is not liable for the slanderous utterances of an agent acting within the scope of one's employment, unless it affirmatively appears that the agent was expressly directed or authorized to slander the plaintiff. Lepard v. Robb, 201 Ga. App. 41, 410 S.E.2d 160 (1991).

Under this section, charges made "against another in reference to his trade, office, or profession, calculated to injure him therein" are actionable per se because in such instances damage is inferred. Hardboard Mach. Co. v. Coastal Prods. Corp., 289 F. Supp. 496 (M.D. Ga. 1967), aff'd, 398 F.2d 833 (5th Cir. 1968).

A charge made against another in reference to one's trade, office, or profession, calculated to injure one therein, is actionable per se unless made under circumstances which constitute it a privileged communication. Sherwood v. Boshears, 157 Ga. App. 542, 278 S.E.2d 124 (1981).

Statements which tend to injure one in his or her trade, occupation, or business have been held to be libelous per se, and one need not prove special damages in such instances. Hub Motor Co. v. Zurawski, 157 Ga. App. 850, 278 S.E.2d 689 (1981).

Slanderous charge is actionable per se, whether words directly or indirectly, by intimation or innuendo, contain slander. The slanderous charge is just as effectively harmful, and therefore actionable per se, that is, without proof of special damages, whether the harmful effect results from words which directly and unequivocally make a charge or whether it results from words which do so indirectly or by inference. It is the harmful effect of defamatory language as it is understood which renders it actionable per se, and not its directness or unequivocal nature. Southland Corp. v. Garren, 135 Ga. App. 77, 217 S.E.2d 347 (1975), rev'd on other grounds, 235 Ga. 784, 221 S.E.2d 571 (1976).

When special damages are not averred, action for slander must fall within one of the categories enumerated in this section. Barry v. Baugh, 111 Ga. App. 813, 143 S.E.2d 489 (1965).

Gist of action of slander is unfavorable impression created in mind of third party by an alleged tort-feasor in using defamatory words of and concerning another in the hearing of such third party. When a word is reasonably susceptible of two meanings, one of which is innocent and the other defamatory, the plaintiff may allege by innuendo the meaning in which it was used, and it is for the jury to say whether or not the word as used was slanderous. Kaplan v. Edmondson, 68 Ga. App. 151, 22 S.E.2d 343 (1942).

To be actionable, statement must be both false and malicious. Williams v. Trust Co., 140 Ga. App. 49, 230 S.E.2d 45 (1976).

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 Bankr. 476 (Bankr. N.D. Ga. 2012).

When words published are in reference to plaintiff's trade, it is unnecessary to allege or prove special damage in order to recover. 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).

When the allegedly slanderous remarks involve the defendants' business, proof of special damages is not required. Acrotube, Inc. v. J.K. Fin. Group, Inc., 653 F. Supp. 470 (N.D. Ga. 1987).

Words to be actionable per se, as tending to injure one in one's trade, profession or business, must contain charge in reference to such. Mell v. Edge, 68 Ga. App. 314, 22 S.E.2d 738 (1942).

Charge made against another in reference to one's trade, must be something that affects one's character generally in one's trade. Rogers v. Adams, 98 Ga. App. 155, 105 S.E.2d 364 (1958).

Under this section, the charge must be of something that affects the plaintiff's character generally in one's trade. The speaker must have had the trade or profession of the plaintiff in view, and utter the words in reference to it. Hardboard Mach. Co. v. Coastal Prods. Corp., 289 F. Supp. 496 (M.D. Ga. 1967), aff'd, 398 F.2d 833 (5th Cir. 1968).

Must reference trade or business.

- Determination as to a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), required that the court evaluate whether the defamation and slander per se claims were pled sufficiently pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) such that there was a viable legal theory stated and, accordingly, statements were found to be defamatory when those statements were opinion statements which implied an assertion of objective fact regarding the alleged undue influence exerted over patients and that nephrologists had no ethics or morals; however, there was no slander per se sufficiently asserted pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 51-5-4(a)(3) to avoid dismissal when statements that the nephrologists were barred from practicing at a dialysis center and that the nephrologists had been fired did not reference the center's trade or business. DaVita Inc. v. Nephrology Assocs., P.C., 253 F. Supp. 2d 1370 (S.D. Ga. 2003).

Generally, any defamatory statement, written or oral, is actionable when published. Atlanta Journal Co. v. Doyal, 82 Ga. App. 321, 60 S.E.2d 802 (1950).

Meaning of statements may be gathered from circumstances.

- Intent and meaning of alleged defamatory statements may be gathered not only from the words themselves but from the circumstances under which they are uttered as well. Burrow v. K-Mart Corp., 166 Ga. App. 284, 304 S.E.2d 460 (1983).

Words are to be interpreted in sense that person of ordinary capacity who heard them spoken would understand them. Blackstock v. Fisher, 95 Ga. App. 117, 97 S.E.2d 322 (1957).

Language must be construed, not only by what the speaker intends it to mean, but also by what the average and reasonable reader may understand it 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).

For a defamatory oral utterance to be slanderous as imputing a crime, the statement must not only be such as may convey to the auditor the impression that the crime in question is being charged, but it must be couched in such language as might reasonably be expected to convey that meaning to any one who happened to hear the utterance. Jones v. Poole, 62 Ga. App. 309, 8 S.E.2d 532 (1940); Anderson v. Fussell, 75 Ga. App. 866, 44 S.E.2d 694 (1947).

Ordinary signification in popular parlance of statement made is vital question in each case of slander, or, in other words, it is a question of the natural and obvious meaning of the words used. Hardboard Mach. Co. v. Coastal Prods. Corp., 289 F. Supp. 496 (M.D. Ga. 1967), aff'd, 398 F.2d 833 (5th Cir. 1968).

When words are innocent or justifiable they will not support an action even though they may have occasioned some special damage, and it has been said that in per quod actions it is not only necessary to show that the language used did produce actual damage, but it must also appear that such language was defamatory and scandalous. Hardboard Mach. Co. v. Coastal Prods. Corp., 289 F. Supp. 496 (M.D. Ga. 1967), aff'd, 398 F.2d 833 (5th Cir. 1968).

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).

True scope and meaning of statement cannot be enlarged or restricted by innuendo. Morris v. Evans, 22 Ga. App. 11, 95 S.E. 385 (1918); Hardeman v. Sinclair Ref. Co., 41 Ga. App. 315, 152 S.E. 854 (1930), overruled on other grounds Worthen v. State, 2019 Ga. LEXIS 22 (Ga. 2019); Christian v. Ransom, 52 Ga. App. 218, 183 S.E. 89 (1935).

If the words spoken are plain and unambiguous and do not impute a crime, the words cannot be enlarged and extended by innuendo. Christian v. Ransom, 52 Ga. App. 218, 183 S.E. 89 (1935).

If words are clearly not defamatory, the words cannot have their meaning enlarged by innuendo. Blackstock v. Fisher, 95 Ga. App. 117, 97 S.E.2d 322 (1957).

When the plain import of the words spoken imputes no criminal offense, the words cannot have their meaning enlarged by innuendo. Burrow v. K-Mart Corp., 166 Ga. App. 284, 304 S.E.2d 460 (1983).

The office of innuendo is merely to explain ambiguity, when the precise meaning of terms employed in an alleged slanderous statement may require elucidation. Hardeman v. Sinclair Ref. Co., 41 Ga. App. 315, 152 S.E. 854 (1930), overruled on other grounds Worthen v. State, 2019 Ga. LEXIS 22 (Ga. 2019); Christian v. Ransom, 52 Ga. App. 218, 183 S.E. 89 (1935).

Words spoken without aid of innuendo are actionable in that their plain import is understandable by a reasonably intelligent person familiar with the English language. Davidson v. Walter, 93 Ga. App. 290, 91 S.E.2d 520 (1956), rev'd on other grounds, 214 Ga. 487, 104 S.E.2d 113 (1958).

Rumors not permissible support for defendant's statements.

- A charge that the plaintiff has had a bastard child by a particular person, and is kept by the plaintiff for the plaintiff's own use, cannot be met and supported by proof as to the neighborhood rumor or reputation upon these matters. Richardson v. Roberts, 23 Ga. 215 (1857).

Malice is one of the essential elements of slander, but when 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. Cochran v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 72 Ga. App. 458, 34 S.E.2d 296 (1945).

Conspiracy to slander.

- One who has not uttered slanderous words may nevertheless be liable therefor if they were uttered by another in furtherance of a conspiracy to which one was a party. The conspiracy may be established by showing that both parties were present when the slanderous words were uttered, and that their utterance by one of the parties was with the consent of the other and in pursuance of a common design and purpose. Jordan v. Hancock, 91 Ga. App. 467, 86 S.E.2d 11 (1955).

Pleading when liability depends on extrinsic facts.

- If words are not actionable, except as they are applied to the person and intrinsic matter in reference to which they were spoken, the declaration is not subject to dismissal. Little v. Barlow, 26 Ga. 423 (1858); Spence v. Johnson, 142 Ga. 267, 82 S.E. 646, 1916A Ann. Cas. 1195 (1914).

Pleading alleged meaning of ambiguous words.

- When words are ambiguous and capable of being understood in a double sense, the one criminal and the other innocent, the plaintiff may by proper allegation aver the meaning with which the plaintiff claims that it was published and the jury may find whether it was published with that meaning or not. Blackstock v. Fisher, 95 Ga. App. 117, 97 S.E.2d 322 (1957).

Effect of procedural default of pleading.

- By deeming claims of wrongful termination and slander as admitted due to a defendant's default in the action for failing to answer, the trial court erred by precluding the defendant from offering evidence to contradict those claims at a hearing on damages, since the well-pled allegations of the complaint failed to allege that the defendant's oral statements imputing a crime to the plaintiff were made to anyone outside of the professional corporation; therefore, the plaintiff's complaint failed to state a claim for slander. Fink v. Dodd, 286 Ga. App. 363, 649 S.E.2d 359 (2007).

Substitution of words by amendment allowed.

- It has been held that a petition alleging words under this section directly charging a particular act may be amended by the substitution of other words charging the same act. Hawks v. Patton, 18 Ga. 52, 63 Am. Dec. 266 (1855); Craven v. Walker, 101 Ga. 845, 29 S.E. 152 (1897); Jones v. Bush, 131 Ga. 421, 62 S.E. 279 (1908).

Motion to dismiss proper when no cause as defined in this section set forth.

- When no allegations were contained in a petition as to any injury to the plaintiff in the plaintiff's trade, office, or profession, and no contagious disorder or debasing act was alleged, and since no special damages were alleged in the petition, the petition does not set forth a cause of action for slander and was subject to dismissal on demurrer (now motion to dismiss). Anderson v. Fussell, 75 Ga. App. 866, 44 S.E.2d 694 (1947).

Demurrer (now motion to dismiss) to petition for defamation should not be sustained unless alleged defamatory words are incapable of defamatory meaning, and the test is whether, in the circumstances, the words discredit a person in the minds of the community. Huey v. Sechler, 107 Ga. App. 467, 130 S.E.2d 754 (1963).

Erroneous instruction to jury.

- When, under the allegations of the petition and the evidence submitted on the trial, a verdict for general damages could have been legally found, it was error to instruct the jury in a way calculated to impress them that the plaintiff could not recover unless special damages were proved. Flanders v. Daley, 124 Ga. 714, 52 S.E. 687 (1906); Zielinski v. Clorox Co., 227 Ga. App. 760, 490 S.E.2d 448 (1997), rev'd on other grounds, 270 Ga. 38, 504 S.E.2d 683 (1998).

Whenever words spoken or published are susceptible of two constructions, it is for jury to say whether they are libelous. Jones v. Poole, 62 Ga. App. 309, 8 S.E.2d 532 (1940).

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).

Whether auditors understood slanderous nature of words is also jury question.

- Accusations made by the defendant against the plaintiff in the presence of third persons were ambiguous, and it was a question of fact for the determination of a jury whether or not the auditors of the utterances understood the defendant to charge the plaintiff with crimes. Blackstock v. Fisher, 95 Ga. App. 117, 97 S.E.2d 322 (1957).

Libel and slander are similar and related but do not give rise to the same causes of action. Griffin v. Branch, 116 Ga. App. 627, 158 S.E.2d 452 (1967).

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).

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).

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 when 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).

Defamation complaint timely filed.

- Natural gas marketer's defamation complaint was timely filed because the complaint was filed on the first anniversary of the date of publication; O.C.G.A. § 1-3-1(d)(3) applies to the one-year statute of limitation for injuries to the reputation found in O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33, so that the first day shall not be counted in determining whether a claim is timely filed. Infinite Energy, Inc. v. Pardue, 310 Ga. App. 355, 713 S.E.2d 456 (2011).

Special damages must be shown to establish a cause of action based on mere derogatory remarks. Connell v. Houser, 189 Ga. App. 158, 375 S.E.2d 136 (1988).

Special damages must be pled.

- Since the appellee did not include in an amended complaint a plea for special damages under O.C.G.A. § 9-11-9(g), the defamation count of the amended complaint was limited to a claim alleging slander per se; employment of the Milkovich factors determined only that the alleged opinion was actionable as slander, but the Milkovich factors had no bearing on whether the words used constituted slander per se; statements which could have been interpreted as having the purpose of injuring the appellee's business by stating or implying that the appellee was going out of the real estate development business in which the appellee was still engaged and leaving the area, were not recognizable as injurious on their face, and the appellant was entitled to summary judgment on the appellee's slander per se claim. Bellemeade, LLC v. Stoker, 280 Ga. 635, 631 S.E.2d 693 (2006).

Damages.

- General damages for slander may be recovered under O.C.G.A. § 51-12-2(a) when a defendant has intentionally and wantonly injured the plaintiff's reputation through slander without proof of any amount; after an injured party claimed that the slander concerned the injured party's profession, damage was inferred under O.C.G.A. § 51-5-4(b). Galardi v. Steele-Inman, 259 Ga. App. 249, 576 S.E.2d 555 (2002).

Bankruptcy.

- An award for the intentional tort of slander is nondischargeable in bankruptcy. Fincher v. Holt, 173 Bankr. 806 (Bankr. M.D. Ga. 1994).

Cited in Watkins v. Augusta Chronicle Publishing Co., 49 Ga. App. 43, 174 S.E. 199 (1934); Brownlee v. Ford, 73 Ga. App. 861, 38 S.E.2d 626 (1946); Southland Publishing Co. v. Sewell, 111 Ga. App. 803, 143 S.E.2d 428 (1965); Tench v. Ivie, 121 Ga. App. 114, 173 S.E.2d 237 (1970); Perry v. Regents of Univ. Sys., 127 Ga. App. 42, 192 S.E.2d 518 (1972); Smith v. Moeller, 132 Ga. App. 184, 207 S.E.2d 669 (1974); Pacific & S. Co. v. Montgomery, 233 Ga. 175, 210 S.E.2d 714 (1974); McKinnon v. Trivett, 136 Ga. App. 59, 220 S.E.2d 63 (1975); Bradley v. Tenneco Oil Co., 146 Ga. App. 161, 245 S.E.2d 862 (1978); Brown v. Scott, 151 Ga. App. 366, 259 S.E.2d 642 (1979); Athens Observer, Inc. v. Anderson, 245 Ga. 63, 263 S.E.2d 128 (1980); Cleveland v. Greengard, 162 Ga. App. 201, 290 S.E.2d 545 (1982); Hayes v. Irwin, 541 F. Supp. 397 (N.D. Ga. 1982); Anderson v. Housing Auth., 171 Ga. App. 841, 321 S.E.2d 378 (1984); Medlin v. Carpenter, 174 Ga. App. 50, 329 S.E.2d 159 (1985); Majik Mkt. v. Best, 684 F. Supp. 1089 (N.D. Ga. 1987); Stone v. McMichen, 186 Ga. App. 510, 367 S.E.2d 839 (1988); Deal v. Builders Transp., Inc., 192 Ga. App. 511, 385 S.E.2d 293 (1989); Barber v. Perdue, 194 Ga. App. 287, 390 S.E.2d 234 (1989); Smith v. Turner, 764 F. Supp. 632 (N.D. Ga. 1991); Kitchen Hardware, Ltd. v. Kuehne & Nagel, Inc., 205 Ga. App. 94, 421 S.E.2d 550 (1992); Fly v. Kroger Co., 209 Ga. App. 75, 432 S.E.2d 664 (1993); Mills v. Ellerbee, 177 Bankr. 731 (Bankr. N.D. Ga. 1995); Jacobs v. Shaw, 219 Ga. App. 425, 465 S.E.2d 460 (1995); Ultima Real Estate Invs. v. Saddler, 237 Ga. App. 635, 516 S.E.2d 360 (1999); Hoffmann-Pugh v. Ramsey, 193 F. Supp. 2d 1295 (N.D. Ga. 2002); Draper v. Reynolds, 278 Ga. App. 401, 629 S.E.2d 476 (2006); Taylor v. Calvary Baptist Temple, 279 Ga. App. 71, 630 S.E.2d 604 (2006).

Applicability to Specific Cases

Actionable imputation may be made by use of cant or slang words or provincialisms which, according to their ordinary meaning are not defamatory. Blackstock v. Fisher, 95 Ga. App. 117, 97 S.E.2d 322 (1957).

Corporation liable upon proof of express authority.

- A corporation is liable for slander committed by an agent when it affirmatively appears that the agent was expressly directed or authorized to speak the words in question. Headley v. Maxwell Motor Sales Corp., 25 Ga. App. 26, 102 S.E. 374, cert. denied, 25 Ga. App. 840 (1920).

Corporation not liable for agent's slander absent authorization.

- The mere averment in a petition that the slanderous utterance was made by the "manager" of the defendant's store, "in charge of the business of the defendant and so acting at the time complained of," was insufficient to authorize a recovery upon the theory of slander since the utterance was not made by one who prima facie was the alter ego of the corporation, and presumably was authorized to speak for the corporation, and, since there was no allegation of any express direction or authority from the corporation to speak the words in question. Sims v. Miller's, Inc., 50 Ga. App. 640, 179 S.E. 423 (1935).

A corporation is not liable for slanderous and defamatory utterances of one of its agents, when not ordered and directed or authorized by it, even though spoken by such agent within the scope of the agent's duties and for the benefit of the corporation. Russell v. Dailey's, Inc., 58 Ga. App. 641, 199 S.E. 665 (1938).

In an action against employee against corporate employer and its manager for allegedly slanderous statements by manager to employee, petition fails to state a cause of action when it does not affirmatively appear from the allegations of the petition that the defendant was expressly directed or authorized by the defendant company to speak the words of which complaint is made. Braden v. Baugham, 74 Ga. App. 802, 41 S.E.2d 581 (1947).

A corporation is not liable for damages resulting from the speaking of false, malicious, or defamatory words by one of its agents, even when in uttering such words the speaker was acting for the benefit of the corporation and within the scope of the duties of one's agency, unless it affirmatively appears that the agent was expressly directed or authorized by the corporation to speak the words in question. Cochran v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 72 Ga. App. 458, 34 S.E.2d 296 (1945); World Ins. Co. v. Peavy, 110 Ga. App. 527, 139 S.E.2d 155 (1964); Zayre of Atlanta, Inc. v. Sharpton, 110 Ga. App. 587, 139 S.E.2d 339 (1964); Molton v. Commercial Credit Corp., 127 Ga. App. 390, 193 S.E.2d 629 (1972); Brackett v. Faust, 145 Ga. App. 248, 243 S.E.2d 667 (1978).

A corporation is not liable for the slanderous utterances of an agent acting within the scope of the agent's employment, unless it affirmatively appears that the agent was expressly directed or authorized to slander the plaintiff. Chambers v. Gap Stores, Inc., 180 Ga. App. 233, 348 S.E.2d 592 (1986).

Same general principles apply as to language concerning one in trade and public office. Language concerning one in office, which imputes to one a want of integrity, or misfeasance in one's office, or which is calculated to diminish public confidence in one, or charges one with the breach of some public trust, is actionable. Huey v. Sechler, 107 Ga. App. 467, 130 S.E.2d 754 (1963); Finnish Allatoona's Interstate Right, Inc. v. Burruss, 131 Ga. App. 572, 206 S.E.2d 679 (1974).

Alleging improper conduct by plaintiff in course of business.

- When a person says to another, of a young woman who had visited him in his office alone on a business errand, that she, while in his office, did not act like a "lady," and this was said to her employer, and of her, concerning her conduct in the transaction of the business for which she was employed, after she had gone to the office of the person who made this remark about her, and, on account thereof she lost her job, they were made of her in reference to her trade or profession, and were calculated to injure her therein. When the charge was false and she had done nothing to justify it, it amounted to slander for which an action in damages lies as provided in this section. Stanley v. Moore, 48 Ga. App. 704, 173 S.E. 190 (1934).

In the context of the plaintiff's supervisor's attempt to enter a storage unit rented by the plaintiff, the supervisor's saying "we're going to get to the bottom of this" suggested to a reasonable listener at most that the supervisor suspected wrongdoing and intended to investigate; the phrase did not amount to a statement that wrongdoing had occurred. Palombi v. Frito-Lay, Inc., 241 Ga. App. 154, 526 S.E.2d 375 (1999).

Radio personality adequately stated a claim for slander per quod under O.C.G.A. § 51-5-4(a)(4) against a former on-air partner for implying to listeners that the radio personality had been fired for misconduct because such an implication, although not actionable per se, injured the radio personality in the radio personality's trade or business and caused special damages in the form of future lost job prospects. No Witness, LLC v. Cumulus Media Partners, LLC, F. Supp. 2d (N.D. Ga. Nov. 13, 2007).

Because a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 plaintiff wrote postdated checks with present consideration for payment of a business debt, the issue whether the payee slandered the plaintiff under O.C.G.A. § 51-5-4(a)(1) by making unfounded accusations and conspiring with a sheriff's deputy to incarcerate the plaintiff until the plaintiff covered the checks could not be summarily determined as a matter of law. Brown v. Camden County, 583 F. Supp. 2d 1358 (S.D. Ga. 2008).

Trial court erred in dismissing a natural gas marketer's defamation action pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 9-11-12(b)(6) because the complaint stated a claim for defamation; the complaint alleged that an attorney, a law firm, and a communications company falsely stated that the marketer engaged in deliberate misinformation and deceived, cheated, and misled the marketer's customers by charging the customers artificially inflated rates after a hurricane and that the marketer suffered damage to the marketer's character, reputation, and business as a result of the statements, and given that market rates for natural gas were quantifiable, the defamatory statements were capable of being proved false. Infinite Energy, Inc. v. Pardue, 310 Ga. App. 355, 713 S.E.2d 456 (2011).

Supervisor's reference to employee as "bullethead," "stupider," and "crazy."

- Employee's evidence that the employee's supervisor called the employee "bullethead" (because the employee had been shot in the head) and told another employee that the employee was in a "stupider" state and that the employee was "crazy" failed to support the employee's defamation claim; the statements were not false and did not refer to the employee's profession as required by O.C.G.A. § 51-5-4(a)(3). Cook-Benjamin v. MHM Corr. Servs., F.3d (11th Cir. July 11, 2014)(Unpublished).

Action by company against employees for defamation.

- In an action by a corporation against two former employees and a competitor, the corporation alleged that one of the employees made three statements to current employees and others: that the former employee had lied to the corporation's customers; that the corporation was looking for a buyer; and that the corporation was beefing up the corporation's books to make a sale go through. The trial court did not err in granting summary judgment on the defamation claims because the statements were not defamatory per se. The first statement only alleged that the former employee lied, not that the employee was directed to do so by the corporation. The second and third statements were neither damaging nor derogatory. Gordon Document Prods. v. Serv. Techs., 308 Ga. App. 445, 708 S.E.2d 48 (2011).

Statements made in good faith performance of public duty.

- Trial court erred in denying the appellant's motion for summary judgment on the appellee's claim for defamation (slander and slander per se) as the 911 call by the appellant's employee to report that the employee had seen the appellee, a convicted felon, standing on the porch of the appellee's apartment, cocking a sawed-off shotgun was privileged because the transcript of the employee's 911 call showed that the employee called the police because the employee believed the employee had a civic duty to report witnessing what the employee thought was criminal conduct; and the appellee did not present any evidence, either direct or circumstantial, of actual malice. Examination Mgmt. Servs. v. Steed, 340 Ga. App. 51, 794 S.E.2d 687 (2016).

Alleging plaintiff has disease.

- When the statements tended to show affliction with a contagious disease, and calculated to injure the plaintiff in the plaintiff's profession, and the evidence did not affirmatively show that the alleged slanderous statements were privileged; a prima facie case for the plaintiff was made out, and the court erred in granting a nonsuit. Brown v. McCann, 36 Ga. App. 812, 138 S.E. 247 (1927).

Petition failed to set out a cause of action for slander against company nurse and supervisor, for informing fellow employees and child welfare worker that the plaintiff suffered from venereal disease, which information was not true. Cochran v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 72 Ga. App. 458, 34 S.E.2d 296 (1945).

Although an allegation of slander encompassed a charge that a person had a contagious disorder that allowed for that person to be excluded from society, the lab technician's oral report to the lab director and the lab director's oral report to the hospital administrator that the medical director had tested positive for an infectious disease did not constitute actionable slander as the oral report conveyed the truth, did not involve a publication, and was not shown to have been made other than in good faith. Nelson v. Glynn-Brunswick Hosp. Auth., 257 Ga. App. 571, 571 S.E.2d 557 (2002).

Calling plaintiff "public whore."

- To state that the plaintiff, a pure and chaste lady of unblemished character, was "a public whore," in the presence of the father of the defendant's wife and other members of her family, was actionable. Veazy v. Blair, 86 Ga. App. 721, 72 S.E.2d 481 (1952).

Sexual relationships.

- Accusing the plaintiff of having sexual relations with a person other than one's spouse constituted slander per se. Baskin v. Rogers, 229 Ga. App. 250, 493 S.E.2d 728 (1997).

Calling plaintiff unqualified for corporate position.

- Petition alleging that the defendant willfully, maliciously, and falsely said to named persons that the plaintiff was unqualified for the position which one held in a named corporation, and that as a result of these statements the plaintiff was demoted to another position at a reduction in salary, states a cause of action in slander, it not appearing from the allegations that any question involving a privileged communication is involved. Rogers v. Adams, 98 Ga. App. 155, 105 S.E.2d 364 (1958).

Statements made in intra-corporate investigation of employee privileged.

- An employee sued the employer for defamation based on a confidential investigation of charges of the employee's alleged misconduct. The claim failed as: (1) the employee produced no evidence of any defamatory statement; and (2) statements made during intra-corporate investigations conducted in good faith performance of a private duty were privileged and were not "published" for purposes of a defamation claim. Lewis v. Meredith Corp., 293 Ga. App. 747, 667 S.E.2d 716 (2008).

Insulting language to customer by store clerk.

- A cause of action is alleged by a petition which asserts that the plaintiff while an invitee on the premises of another for the purpose of transacting business was subjected to opprobrious, insulting, and abusive words amounting to slander by a clerk employed to deal with the business-invitee. Zayre of Atlanta, Inc. v. Sharpton, 110 Ga. App. 587, 139 S.E.2d 339 (1964).

To accuse another of crime punishable by law is slander. Zakas v. Mills, 148 Ga. App. 220, 251 S.E.2d 135 (1978); Corbin v. First Nat'l Bank, 151 Ga. App. 33, 258 S.E.2d 697 (1979).

Imputing crime is actionable per se.

- The statement, "Mr. Page (plaintiff in an action for damages for slander) stole my hog, and I am going to prosecute him for it," imputes to plaintiff a crime punishable by law, and is actionable per se. King v. Page, 45 Ga. App. 195, 164 S.E. 106 (1932).

No evidence of slanderous words imputing crime.

- The words "jumped on him" do not of themselves imply a crime, and since the plaintiff did not aver by any proper allegations any meaning which would enlarge the words by innuendo, no cause of action was stated as to slanderous words imputing a crime. Anderson v. Fussell, 75 Ga. App. 866, 44 S.E.2d 694 (1947).

Slander during meeting discussing failure to disclose criminal conviction in employment environment.

- Unidentified loss prevention supervisor who escorted a terminated employee off the employer's premises and was present during the meeting in which the employee was terminated for failing to disclose a crime on an application had authority to know why the employee was terminated; publication to the unidentified supervisor did not preclude summary judgment for the defendants in the employee's slander suit, even though the employee and the unidentified supervisor did not work in the same location. McClesky v. Home Depot, Inc., 272 Ga. App. 469, 612 S.E.2d 617 (2005).

Employee who was back-up supervisor had a qualified privilege to receive information that an employee was terminated for failure to disclose a crime on an application because the back-up supervisor was a friend to the terminated employee and initiated the request for information and persisted in questioning the reason for the termination, the back-up supervisor's ability to complete work was directly impacted by the termination, and the back up supervisor was provided the information in confidence and privacy. McClesky v. Home Depot, Inc., 272 Ga. App. 469, 612 S.E.2d 617 (2005).

Trial court erred in directing a verdict in favor of a dentist on a former employee's slander claim; statements made by the dentist to others that indicated that the employee filed a false police report regarding the dentist's assault and battery of the employee were sufficient to support a claim for slander per se under O.C.G.A. § 51-5-4. Ferman v. Bailey, 292 Ga. App. 288, 664 S.E.2d 285 (2008).

It is not necessary that crime should be charged in express words; if the hearers understand that this is meant. Lewis v. Hudson, 44 Ga. 568 (1872).

Prima facie case.

- When the language imputes to the plaintiff guilt of an indictable offense, the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case upon proof that the slanderous language, substantially as alleged in the petition, was used by the defendant. Redfearn v. Thompson, 10 Ga. App. 550, 73 S.E. 949 (1912); Carter v. Norton, 25 Ga. App. 79, 102 S.E. 648 (1920).

To charge falsely that one has acted deceitfully in conducting one's business affairs is actionable per se. Dickey v. Brannon, 118 Ga. App. 33, 162 S.E.2d 827 (1968).

To charge a person, in the presence of others, with committing forgery is actionable per se, although it is not stated to what instrument the name was forged. A plaintiff need not describe the offense imputed to the plaintiff with the technical nicety required in indictments; it is sufficient if the language used is understood by others as charging a crime. Russell v. Dailey's, Inc., 58 Ga. App. 641, 199 S.E. 665 (1938).

Words imputing to plaintiff crime of larceny are slanderous per se. Duchess Chenilles, Inc. v. Masters, 84 Ga. App. 822, 67 S.E.2d 600 (1951).

The statement that one is "short" in one's account does not necessarily impute to the person the crime of larceny after trust, where, according to the true meaning of the statement and the language accompanying it, the offense would not be complete unless there had been a refusal to pay for or deliver the property which it might be inferred had been appropriated. The word "short" does not of itself imply a crime. Hardeman v. Sinclair Ref. Co., 41 Ga. App. 315, 152 S.E. 854 (1930), overruled on other grounds Worthen v. State, 2019 Ga. LEXIS 22 (Ga. 2019).

To charge one orally with stealing is slander or defamation per se, and damage to the slandered person is inferred therefrom. Ingram v. Kendrick, 48 Ga. App. 278, 172 S.E. 815 (1934).

To make charge that another is a thief is actionable per se. Franklin v. Evans, 55 Ga. App. 177, 189 S.E. 722 (1937).

Statement using the term "illegal."

- Even though a speaker may have used the term "illegal" in reference to the actions of another party, those words did not accuse the speaker of committing any crime punishable by law; rather, the words were simply accusations of unethical, tortious behavior and, as such, were not defamatory. Parks v. Multimedia Techs., Inc., 239 Ga. App. 282, 520 S.E.2d 517 (1999); Dagel v. Lemcke, 245 Ga. App. 243, 537 S.E.2d 694 (2000).

Remark which neither specified the nature of the alleged "illegal activities" nor whether the purported "illegal activities" bore any relationship to scouting or to a scoutmaster was not slander under O.C.G.A. § 51-5-4(a)(1). McGee v. Gast, 257 Ga. App. 882, 572 S.E.2d 398 (2002).

Terminated employee's allegations concerning state board's purported statements to the media that the employee was engaged in extravagant seminars and was misusing state funds constituted slander. Bd. of Pub. Safety v. Jordan, 252 Ga. App. 577, 556 S.E.2d 837 (2001).

Slander claim not preempted by Labor Management Relations Act.

- Trial court erred in dismissing an employee's claim that a union business agent slandered the employee because no interpretation of collective bargaining agreements was required, and the employee could proceed on the claim since the claim was not preempted by § 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S.C. § 185; to the extent the employee contended that the agent made statements in the agent's individual capacity to individuals outside the scope of the collective bargaining agreements, then those statements would have been made outside the scope of the agent's employment, and the statements would not be privileged as the good faith performance of a legal duty. Eason v. Marine Terminals Corp., 309 Ga. App. 669, 710 S.E.2d 867 (2011).

Alleging plaintiff's demotion was for unsatisfactory performance versus voluntary.

- Trial court erred by granting summary judgment to a publisher in a former creative director's defamation suit regarding a story published that the creative director was demoted for poor performance as opposed to having stepped down voluntarily as a result of not enjoying certain executive aspects of the promotion because there was sufficient evidence to create a jury issue on each essential element of the claim, such as whether the creative director was demoted voluntarily or whether it was due to unsatisfactory performance, and the falsity of the report, which depended on whether the demotion resulted from dissatisfaction or not. However, the trial court properly granted the creative director's former employer and its chief executive officer summary judgment on an invasion of privacy claim since the creative director had signed a release after termination of employment, which expressly stated that the former employer and the chief executive officer were not liable for any invasion of privacy claim. Gettner v. Fitzgerald, 297 Ga. App. 258, 677 S.E.2d 149 (2009).

If merely fraud, dishonesty, immorality, or vice be imputed, no action lies without proof of special damage. Roberts v. Ramsey, 86 Ga. 432, 12 S.E. 644 (1890); Ford v. Lamb, 116 Ga. 655, 42 S.E. 998 (1902); Morris v. Evans, 22 Ga. App. 11, 95 S.E. 385 (1918); Christian v. Ransom, 52 Ga. App. 218, 183 S.E. 89 (1935).

To publish falsely of another in reference to one's business that one has mortgaged one's property is not actionable per se, without allegations of special damage. Dickey v. Brannon, 118 Ga. App. 33, 162 S.E.2d 827 (1968).

Statements made in good faith pursuant to investigation by police of crime are made in performance of public duty and are privileged. Corbin v. First Nat'l Bank, 151 Ga. App. 33, 258 S.E.2d 697 (1979).

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 the plaintiff's 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).

Unfavorable commercial publicity as such is not defamation, since it lacks the 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).

Crime not imputed by request to examine packages.

- When there was a large and prominently displayed sign at the entrance which advised all patrons that the store reserved the right to inspect all packages, and the "store greeter" did that and nothing more - although, as viewed by the plaintiff, the greeter was neither discreet nor polite - the greeter's words and actions, even as interpreted by the plaintiff, amounted to nothing more than: "I'm going to check your boxes, it's my job," and no criminal offense was imputed to the plaintiff. Burrow v. K-Mart Corp., 166 Ga. App. 284, 304 S.E.2d 460 (1983).

Award of $100,000 for falsely accusing plaintiff of murder not excessive.

- Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 51-12-12, a trial court set aside as excessive a jury's award to a musician of $100,000 in general damages for slander per se committed by a radio station personality. This was error since the evidence showed the radio broadcast falsely accusing the musician of murder damaged the musician's reputation and career, which was based on the musician's reputation as a positive role model for fathers. Riddle v. Golden Isles Broad., LLC, 292 Ga. App. 888, 666 S.E.2d 75 (2008), overruled on other grounds by Rockdale Hospital, LLC v. Evans, 306 Ga. 847, 834 S.E.2d 77 (2019).

Special damages shown.

- Defamation plaintiff, a radio personality, alleged sufficient facts to make plausible a finding of special damages, a required element of a claim for slander per quod under O.C.G.A. § 51-5-4(b) because, under the Twombly pleading standard, the plaintiff alleged that disparaging on-air statements by the defendant, the plaintiff's former radio partner, could have negative consequences on the plaintiff's potential listenership, fans, and potential future employment in radio. No Witness, LLC v. Cumulus Media Partners, LLC, F. Supp. 2d (N.D. Ga. Nov. 13, 2007).

Special damages not shown.

- Since the plaintiff remained employed and received all raises due the plaintiff, when the plaintiff offered no evidence that the plaintiff's failure to receive a part-time job for which the plaintiff applied was the result of the plaintiff's alleged defamation, and since the plaintiff's voluntary act of hiring an attorney when the plaintiff was a witness before a personnel review board did not actually flow from the defendants' allegedly tortious acts, the plaintiff showed no special damages. Meyer v. Ledford, 170 Ga. App. 245, 316 S.E.2d 804 (1984).

Breach of agreement despite absence of special damages.

- The failure of the plaintiffs to produce evidence of special damages in an action alleging the violation of a settlement agreement which included a non-disparagement clause did not require the reversal of a grant of partial summary judgment for the plaintiffs only on the narrow issue of whether breach of the non-disparagement clause occurred. Eichelkraut v. Camp, 236 Ga. App. 721, 513 S.E.2d 267 (1999).

Derogatory name calling.

- Words used by the defendant in calling the plaintiff a m-----f----- did not impute any violation of law by the plaintiff and did not amount to slander per se; although the statement could be characterized as derogatory name-calling, special damages would have to be shown. Bullock v. Jeon, 226 Ga. App. 875, 487 S.E.2d 692 (1997).

Scatological or hyperbolic statements not actionable as defamation per se.

- Radio personality failed to adequately state a claim for slander per se under O.C.G.A. § 51-5-4(a)(3) against a former on-air partner for making disparaging and scatological on-air comments about the plaintiff's character and appearance, and the quality of a film that the plaintiff had released because the comments amounted to opinion or immature name-calling that no listener would believe described a fact that could be proved false. No Witness, LLC v. Cumulus Media Partners, LLC, F. Supp. 2d (N.D. Ga. Nov. 13, 2007).

Statements did not imply commission of adultery.

- Statements that defamation plaintiff and a man not the plaintiff's spouse were "hugged up with each other" or "wrapped up with each other" in public do not imply that the plaintiff committed the offense of adultery and at most constitute "disparaging words" which are actionable only when special damage is incurred. Meyer v. Ledford, 170 Ga. App. 245, 316 S.E.2d 804 (1984).

Juror not deprived of liberty interest by "harmful" comment by state judge.

- An out-of-court comment by a state court judge about a juror in a murder trial who voted against the death penalty, that the judge considered lodging perjury charges against the juror, however seriously it may have harmed the juror's reputation, did not deprive the juror of any constitutionally protected liberty interest. The juror's interest in the juror's reputation was protected by state tort law. Emory v. Peeler, 756 F.2d 1547 (11th Cir. 1985).

Imputing intent to engage in subornation of perjury.

- Defendant's phone conversation with a witness in which the defendant told the witness that the defendant was aware that the plaintiff was offering a portion of any damages recovered to helpful witnesses and that if a witness were to provide false testimony the defendant would have to report them for perjury prosecution did impute to the plaintiff the commission of a crime so as to constitute actionable defamation without a showing of special damages. Hodges v. Tomberlin, 170 Ga. App. 842, 319 S.E.2d 11 (1984).

An overstatement relating only to the emotion and fervor with which plaintiff may have accomplished the plaintiff's admitted acts would constitute a privileged non-actionable communication, deviating from the "truth" only in degree rather than in kind and thus could not form the basis of action for libel. Tetrault v. Shelton, 179 Ga. App. 746, 347 S.E.2d 636 (1986).

Stating mother "unfit to have a kid."

- In a defamation action, statements by the father of a child that "[mother] give women in general a bad name . . . I want to take that kid from her . . . [s]he's unfit to have a kid" were not slander or libel per se since did not impute any specific crime, debasing act, dishonesty or immorality and, because the mother failed to plead or prove any special damages, the trial court correctly granted summary judgment to the father and the newspaper that published the remarks. Webster v. Wilkins, 217 Ga. App. 194, 456 S.E.2d 699 (1995).

Oral allegation of child abuse to Department of Family and Children Services amounted to publication.

- Although under O.C.G.A. § 49-5-40(b), reports made to the Department of Family and Children Services (DFACS) are confidential, the law of defamation requires only that the statement be disseminated to any person other than the person slandered. Therefore, a landlord's oral allegations to a DFACS employee that a tenant committed child abuse amounted to "publication" for purposes of O.C.G.A. § 51-5-4. Brown v. Rader, 299 Ga. App. 606, 683 S.E.2d 16 (2009).

Person alleging child abuse held immune from liability for slander.

- As a tenant admitted at a deposition that the tenant's son was sometimes in their home, which the tenant knew was contaminated with toxic mold, without a mask, the landlord had reasonable cause to allege to authorities that the tenant was guilty of child abuse, and was thus entitled to immunity from the tenant's slander claim under O.C.G.A. § 19-7-5(f). Brown v. Rader, 299 Ga. App. 606, 683 S.E.2d 16 (2009).

Physician's statements about nurse-midwife.

- Factual question, precluding summary judgment, was raised as to whether the physician's allegedly slanderous statements about a nurse-midwife were made either in the ordinary course of the business of a professional partnership or with the authority of the physician's partners. Sweeney v. Athens Regional Medical Ctr., 709 F. Supp. 1563 (M.D. Ga. 1989).

Defendant's statements that plaintiff had removed defendant's shelves and thrown their contents on the floor did not create a cause of action for slander, since such statements, the truth of which were acknowledged by the plaintiff, were made to a police officer and insurance agent inspecting the alleged damage. Tetrault v. Shelton, 179 Ga. App. 746, 347 S.E.2d 636 (1986).

No evidence of oral defamation. See Mays v. Hospital Auth., 582 F. Supp. 425 (N.D. Ga. 1984).

In an action against a church for slander based on statements made to the congregation, the trial court had jurisdiction concerning charges that members were guilty of crimes, but the court was not competent to adjudicate charges that members were witches and practiced witchcraft, since they related to religious faith, belief, and practice. First United Church v. Udofia, 223 Ga. App. 849, 479 S.E.2d 146 (1996).

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 O.C.G.A. § 51-5-4, 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).

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 and51-5-4; 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).

Communications made in good faith in prosecution of crime were privileged.

- Statements which were made in good faith, and in compliance with a criminal investigation, were not slanderous, and were privileged; therefore, the claim was properly dismissed on a summary judgment motion. Adams v. Carlisle, 278 Ga. App. 777, 630 S.E.2d 529 (2006).

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, F. Supp. 2d (DC Mar. 30, 2011).

Publicity from broadcast.

- When 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).

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).

Although a healthcare worker argues that a newspaper headline libeled the healthcare worker by implying that the healthcare worker was, in fact, an accomplice in a prisoner escape from a hospital, a charge which was later dismissed, reading the headline in conjunction with the article, the average reader would have believed that the healthcare worker had been arrested and charged with aiding another to escape from custody, which was true at the time; the trial court's denial of a summary judgment motion filed by the newspaper and the reporter was error. Cmty. Newspaper Holdings, Inc. v. King, 299 Ga. App. 267, 682 S.E.2d 346 (2009).

Failure to investigate.

- In an action by a high school football coach against the superintendent of schools and a television station news reporter, a television news report concerning allegations of the coach's prior involvement in illegal gambling did not constitute "defamacast," slander, or false light invasion of privacy, even if the reporter failed to investigate adequately. Brewer v. Rogers, 211 Ga. App. 343, 439 S.E.2d 77 (1993).

False accusation that the owner of rental property failed to insure or pay property taxes on such property could reasonably be construed to refer to one's "trade, profession, business"; therefore, the accusation was actionable per se and proof of special damages was not required. Strange v. Henderson, 223 Ga. App. 218, 477 S.E.2d 330 (1996).

Statements made were not malicious.

- 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 slander claim after the court found that: (1) even though a photograph of the plaintiff appeared on the screen when the parents made the statement, it was undisputed that the parents had no control over the editing decisions; and (2) even had the parents intended to refer to the plaintiff, the statements were still not malicious. Wolf v. Ramsey, 253 F. Supp. 2d 1323 (N.D. Ga. 2003).

Calling plaintiff alcoholic and promiscuous in book.

- 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, and properly found that the person did not need to plead nor present evidence of special damages in support of the claim as the published statements in the book that the person was a promiscuous alcoholic required no extrinsic evidence to demonstrate that the statements were injurious on their face. Smith v. Stewart, 291 Ga. App. 86, 660 S.E.2d 822 (2008).

Opinion statements regarding America's loss on Sept. 11, 2001 are not slanderous.

- In a suit between feuding neighbors, the trial court properly held that the words spoken by one against the other, which the latter alleged were disparaging against America's loss on September 11, 2001, were not slanderous, as they were an expression of pure opinion, which was neither provable as true nor as false; as a result, the neighbor who uttered the allegedly slanderous comments was entitled to summary judgment on the other's claim of slander per se. Bullard v. Bouler, 286 Ga. App. 218, 649 S.E.2d 311 (2007).

Natural gas marketer not a limited purpose public figure.

- Trial court erred in finding that a natural gas marketer was a limited purpose public figure because there were no affidavits, depositions, or other evidence that could support such a conclusion; the complaint and the complaint's attachments reflected that the marketer was an energy giant with at least 600 customers in Georgia who tried to maintain a class-action suit against the marketer for allegedly locking the customers into three-year contracts at inflated prices, and those statements did not show that the marketer was either a household word or that the marketer held a position of such persuasive power and influence that the marketer had to be deemed a public figure for all purposes. Infinite Energy, Inc. v. Pardue, 310 Ga. App. 355, 713 S.E.2d 456 (2011).

Alleging plaintiff misappropriated funds.

- With regard to a slander count asserted by a former insurance agent against another agent, the trial court did not err by denying the other agent's motion for a directed verdict with regard to statements made that the former insurance agent misappropriated an insurance company's funds as the statements consisted of charges with regard to the former insurance agent's trade, office, or profession, calculated to injure and, therefore, were properly considered by the jury, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 51-5-4(a)(3). Am. Southern Ins. Group, Inc. v. Goldstein, 291 Ga. App. 1, 660 S.E.2d 810 (2008), cert. denied, No. S08C1555, 2008 Ga. LEXIS 680 (Ga. 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, F.3d (11th Cir. Sept. 2, 2009)(Unpublished).

Neighbor was not liable for conspiracy to commit slander.

- Judgment against a neighbor for the slander of a homeowner in the neighborhood was reversed because the neighbor was not present when another neighbor uttered slanderous remarks regarding the homeowner to a third party, and there was no evidence that the neighbor directed or acquiesced in the slander, although the two neighbors had conspired to have the homeowner arrested and to otherwise harass the homeowner. Turnage v. Kasper, 307 Ga. App. 172, 704 S.E.2d 842 (2010).

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).

RESEARCH REFERENCES

Am. Jur. 2d.

- 50 Am. Jur. 2d, Libel and Slander, § 1 et seq.

16B Am. Jur. Pleading and Practice Forms, Libel and Slander, § 1.

Slander of Title, 7 POF2d 133.

C.J.S.

- 53 C.J.S., Libel and Slander, §§ 1 et seq., 284 et seq.

ALR.

- Statement with reference to discharge from private employment as actionable per se, 66 A.L.R. 1499.

Defamatory words spoken with regard to a customer's conduct as constituting actionable slander, 92 A.L.R. 1174.

Statute of limitation applicable to action for slander of title, 131 A.L.R. 837.

Joint liability for slander, 26 A.L.R.2d 1031.

Venue of action for slander, 70 A.L.R.2d 1340.

What amounts to special damage in action for slander of title, 4 A.L.R.4th 532.

Allowance of punitive damages in action for slander of title or disparagement of property, 7 A.L.R.4th 1219.

Imputation of criminal, abnormal, or otherwise offensive sexual attitude or behavior as defamation - post New York Times Cases, 57 A.L.R.4th 404.

Liability for statement or publication charging plaintiff with killing of, cruelty to, or inhumane treatment of animals, 69 A.L.R.5th 645.

Defamation of church member by church or church official, 109 A.L.R.5th 541.

Criticism or disparagement of physician's character, competence, or conduct as defamation, 16 A.L.R.6th 1.

Defamation by television - actual malice, 42 A.L.R.6th 353.

Statement Regarding Victim or Accuser of Rape or Other Sexual Misconduct as Defamation, 49 A.L.R.7th Art. 8.

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