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Monday, March 4, 2019

WA State Torts: Defamation

by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under Washington State laws, what is the tort of defamationHere's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).


DEFAMATION

Defamation is a tort in Washington State. A tort is a civil wrong, other than breach of contract, for which remedies may be obtained. To succeed on a claim of defamation, a plaintiff must typically prove the following four elements:
  1. false and defamatory language on the part of the defendant;
  2. an unprivileged communication of the defamatory language by the defendant to a third person; 
  3. fault on the defendant's part; and
  4. damages.
See Robel v. Roundup Corporation, 148 Wn.2d 35, 55 (Wash. 2002).


THE THRESHOLD QUESTION

However, "before the truth or falsity of an allegedly defamatory statement can be assessed, a plaintiff must prove that the words constituted a statement of fact, not an opinion." Id. The issue of "[w]hether the allegedly defamatory words were intended as a statement of fact or an expression of opinion is a threshold question of law for the court." Id. (internal citations omitted).


THE DUNLAP 3-FACTOR TEST

In order to determine whether words "should ... be viewed as nonactionable opinions, ... [the courts] consider the 'totality of the circumstances' surrounding those statements: 'To determine whether a statement is nonactionable, a court should consider at least (1) the medium and context in which the statement was published, (2) the audience to whom it was published, and (3) whether the statement implies undisclosed facts. Id. at 56 (citing Dunlap v. Wayne, 105 Wash. 2d 529, 539, 716 P.2d 842 (1986) (regarding as a nonactionable opinion, not a statement of fact, opposing counsel's statement to plaintiff's employer that plaintiff had been soliciting a kickback).


LEARN MORE

If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced Washington State Attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. Please note: the information contained in this article is not offered as legal advice and will not form an attorney-client relationship with either this author or Williams Law Group, PS; please see our DISCLAIMER.

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