Libel is a malicious publication, expressed either in printing or in writing, tending to injure the reputation of another person or expose him or her to public hatred, contempt or ridicule, or to injure them in the maintenance of a business. Like slander, libel falls into two categories: libel per se and libel per quod.
(1) Libel per se. This includes publications that are defamatory on their face. This is the broadest category of libel. Libel per se is presumed to be false, made with malice and damaging to the plaintiff unless rebutted by the defendant. Most libel actions are actions for libel per se.
(2) Libel per quod. Libel per quod is a publication capable of defamatory interpretation when considered in context with other extrinsic evidence. Unlike libel per se, however, libel per quod does not include the presumptions of malice, falsity and damage, and is, therefore, a much less desirable pleading from a plaintiff’s perspective. It is often prudent, however, to plead special damages in a libel per se case. If it is later determined that the defamatory publication was not libel on its face, without consideration of extrinsic evidence, failure to plead special damages could lead to dismissal of an otherwise viable cause of action for libel per quod.
Tomorrow . . . other factors