Defamation Elements Washington State

"In Washington, a defamation plaintiff must show four essential elements: falsity, an unprivileged communication, fault, and damages." Commodore v. Univ. Mech. Contractors, Inc., 120 Wn.2d 120, 133, 839 P.2d 314 (1992). Liability for defamation requires that the defamation be communicated to someone other than the person defamed; in other words, there must be a "publication" of the defamation. Pate v. Tyee Motor Inn, Inc., 77 Wn.2d 819, 821, 467 P.2d 301 (1970). The Court of Appeals vacated John Doe's defamation award and directed that the jury be instructed on remand that Gonzaga cannot be held liable for communications among its own employees. More than 80 years ago, this Court held that intracorporate communications are not "published" for purposes of defamation. "For a corporation . . . acting through one of its agents or representatives, to send a libelous communication to another of its agents or representatives cannot be a publication of the libel on the part of the corporation. It is but communicating with itself." Prins v. Holland-North Am. Mortgage Co., 107 Wash. 206, 208, 181 P. 680 (1919). The plaintiff there was a Seattle branch manager of a company headquartered in the Netherlands. The alleged defamation was contained in a letter sent by the main office and read only by the plaintiff's comanager and a bookkeeper. The Prins court held that there had been no publication of the allegedly defamatory statements.