Defamation requires proof that: (1) a false and defamatory statement was made (2) which was of and concerning the plaintiff (3) which was published to a third party and (4) resulted in damages to plaintiff’s reputation. Restatement (Second) of Torts §558 (1977). As with most torts, there must be some type of injury to the plaintiff’s reputation; mere name calling is not enough. The two types of defamation are libel and slander. Slander is spoken defamation. Libel, on the other hand, is written defamation. With libel, damages are presumed, regardless of monetary loss, because the written word has more permanency than the spoken word. In a slander case, the plaintiff must prove his monetary damages.
A publication which, when considered alone without explanatory circumstances that: (1) charges that a person has committed an infamous crime; (2) charges that a person has an infectious disease; (3) tends to impeach a person in that person’s trade or profession; or (4) otherwise tends to subject one to “ridicule, contempt or disgrace” is considered libel per se. Phillips v. Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Bd. Of Educ., 117 N.C. App. 274, 277, 450 S.E.2d 753, 756 (1994), disc. review denied, 340 N.C. 115, 456 S.E.2d 318 (1995). Similarly, “an oral communication to a third party which amounts to (1) an accusation that the plaintiff committed a crime involving moral turpitude; (2) an allegation that impeaches the plaintiff in his trade, business, or profession; or (3) an imputation that the plaintiff has a loathsome disease” is considered slander per se. Id. Truth is a defense in all defamation actions. In some cases, a person may have immunity, as for instance if the defamatory words were spoken in the context of a judicial proceeding and were related to that proceeding
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