Yetman v. English

In Yetman v. English, 168 Ariz. 71, 811 P.2d 323 (1991) the Arizona Supreme Court set forth the test to determine when statements are actionable as defamation. That test may be summarized as follows: Statements that can be interpreted as nothing more than rhetorical political invective, opinion, or hyperbole are protected speech, but false assertions that state or imply a factual accusation may be actionable. The trial court first decides whether, under all the circumstances, a statement is even capable of a defamatory meaning. If so found, the jury then determines whether the defamatory meaning was actually conveyed. In most instances, it is for the jury to determine whether an ordinary reader or listener would believe the statement to be a factual assertion, mere opinion or hyperbole. The meaning of words and statements should not be construed in isolation; rather, consideration should be given to the context and all surrounding circumstances, including the impression created by the words used and the expression's general tenor. If the jury finds that a defamatory statement of objective fact (beyond mere hyperbole) exists, it should then consider actual damage to the plaintiff's reputation in the real world by measuring the defamatory aspect of the statement by its natural and probable effect on the mind of the average recipient.