Brief Fact Summary. Ellsworth (Plaintiff) alleged that Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, Inc. (Defendant) misstated Plaintiff’s professional and financial rating in its directory. Plaintiff sued Defendant for libel.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. In an action for defamation, Plaintiff may be able to prove special damages by prove of reduced business revenue.
Upon finding a reasonable possibility that the ascribed libelous meaning can be given to the material alleged to be defamatory, it is for the jury to determine if the libelous meaning was intended or conveyed.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Does the mere allegation of reduced business revenue suffice for a pleading of special damages in a defamation action?
Held. No. Judgment affirmed.
* It is not always necessary for Plaintiff to call as his witnesses those who have ceased to deal with him. He may be able to show by his books or otherwise, a general diminution of business as distinct from the loss of particular known customers. It is still required for Plaintiff to connect that diminution of business with Defendant’s words. Sometimes the connection can be established by the nature of the words themselves. Where Defendant has published a statement about Plaintiff’s business that is intended or reasonably calculated to produce a general loss of business, evidence of such loss of business is admissible and sufficient special damage.
Discussion. In this case, the claim of a general loss of business sufficed for special damages under a claim of libel.