What Is the Definition of ''Defamation'' In California Case Law ?
Defamation is an invasion of the interest in reputation.
The tort involves the intentional publication of a statement of fact which is false, unprivileged, and has a natural tendency to injure or which causes special damage. (Smith v. Maldonado (1999) 72 Cal. App. 4th 637, 645 85 Cal. Rptr. 2d 397; Civ. Code, 45, 46; 5 Witkin, Summary of Cal. Law (9th ed. 1988) Torts 471, pp. 557-558.)
Publication, which may be written or oral, is defined as a communication to some third person who understands both the defamatory meaning of the statement and its application to the person to whom reference is made. Publication need not be to the public or a large group; communication to a single individual is sufficient. ( Cunningham v. Simpson (1969) 1 Cal. 3d 301, 306 81 Cal. Rptr. 855, 461 P.2d 39; 5 Witkin, Summary of Cal. Law, supra, Torts, 471, 476, pp. 557-558, 560-561.)
Reprinting or recirculating a libelous writing has the same effect as the original publication. ( Schneider v. United Airlines, Inc. (1989) 208 Cal. App. 3d 71, 75 256 Cal. Rptr. 71; McKinney v. County of Santa Clara (1980) 110 Cal. App. 3d 787, 797 168 Cal. Rptr. 89; 5 Witkin, Summary of Cal. Law, supra, Torts, 478, pp. 562-563.)
The same is true in the case of slander, or oral defamation; when a person repeats a slanderous charge, even though identifying the source or indicating it is merely a rumor, this constitutes republication and has the same effect as the original publication of the slander. (Gilman v. McClatchy (1896) 111 Cal. 606, 612 44 P. 241; Rest.2d Torts, 576, 578.)
The original slanderer may be liable for the repetition of the slander by a third person, if the slanderer had reason to expect such repetition. ( Rest.2d Torts, 576(c); 5 Witkin, Summary of Cal. Law, supra, Torts, 478, p. 562.)