What Happens in San Diego and Rancho Santa Fe if a Libel or Slander Per Se Defendant Asserts No One Believed his or her Statements Defamatory?

Because the law presumes damages for defamation per se, plaintiffs need not show anybody believed the libel or slander. Similarly, the law requires no plaintiff to prove changes in anyone’s impressions of, or conduct toward, him/her/it.

Approving 1956 case law, a court recently confirmed, “ ‘it is not necessary that anyone believe [defamatory statements] to be true, since the fact that such words are in circulation at all concerning the plaintiff must be to some extent injurious to his reputation.’ ”

The judge ruled as follows.

“ ‘If the communication is obviously defamatory in the eyes of the community generally, the fact that the particular recipient does not regard it as discreditable is not controlling.” (Rest.2d Torts, § 559, com. e, p. 158.) Code of Civil Procedure section 461 allows a defendant in a defamation action to give evidence of “mitigating circumstances, to reduce the amount of damages.’ ” However, “[t]he fact that the person to whom the slander may have been uttered was not influenced thereby or had subsequently regained his confidence in the [defamed] plaintiff, would not be such a ‘mitigating circumstance.’ ” (Emphasis added)

Accordingly, evidence showing lack of injury to the plaintiff’s reputation is inadmissible.