Chaves v. Johnson

In Chaves v. Johnson (1985) 230 Va. 112 335 S.E.2d 97, the Virginia Supreme Court held that despite the fact the defendant's letter was not defamatory as a matter of law, the plaintiff, who lost a valuable architectural commission as a result of the letter, could obtain damages for intentional interference with contract. The court was "unpersuaded" by defendant's "freedom-of-speech argument," reasoning: "The tort complained of here is an intentional wrong to the property rights of another, accomplished by words, not defamatory in themselves, but employed in pursuance of a scheme designed wrongfully to enrich the speaker at the expense of the victim. The law provides a remedy in such cases, and the constitutional guarantees of free speech afford no more protection to the speaker than they do to any other tortfeasor who employs words to commit a criminal or a civil wrong." (Id. at p. 103.)