What Happens in Los Angeles and Orange County When the Actual Words of Libel or Slander Are Innocent and Only an Inference Defamatory?

Recently a client, a Defendant, asked me why a completely innocent, allegedly libelous statement by itself (without explanatory information) was defamatory when someone had to infer as much, i.e., read libel into it. What makes innuendo or an inference defamatory?

California courts have consistently ruled insinuation can be actionable defamation.

One court put it this way. “A person may be liable for what he insinuates as well as for what he says explicitly…. An article may be libelous on its face even though it is susceptible to an innocent interpretation. The court added, “It is error for the court to rule that a publication cannot be defamatory on its face when by any reasonable interpretation the language is susceptible of a defamatory meaning.”

Another court said, “If the defendant juxtaposes [a] series of facts so as to imply a defamatory connection between them, or [otherwise] creates a defamatory implication…he [she] may be held responsible for the defamatory implication, even though the particular facts are correct.”

This rule may seem odd, but it remains the law today.