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Legal Memorandum: Defamation Per Se Cases

Issue: What are examples of California and Minnesota jury verdicts and settlements in defamation per se cases in which a plaintiff does not establish actual damages?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Defamation per se; Actual damages
Jurisdiction: California, Minnesota
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Date: 08/01/2008

Minnesota Verdicts and Settlements – Defamation Per Se

Defendant created an email account and sent defamatory emails about the plaintiffs to various recipients.  Jury awarded plaintiffs $550,000, including $425,000 in combined defamation damages, $75,000 in combined emotional distress damages, and $50,000 in punitive damages.  Ericson v. Hawkins, Case No. 27-CV-05-17500 (Hennepin County Dist. Ct., Minn. Nov. 28, 2006).

In addition to committing various business torts, a shareholder of a Minnesota corporation told members of the local Kenyan community that the plaintiffs, also shareholders and members of the Kenyan community, had stolen money from the company and left the country permanently.  Jury awarded plaintiffs $24,104.72, including $100 in defamation damages.  Compassionate Nursing Servs v. Masese, Case No. 03-14413 (Hennepin County Dist. Ct., Minn. Feb. 14, 2005).

Minnesota Verdicts and Settlements – Defamation Without Distinguishing Measurable Damages

Host of cable access television show filed an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, defamation, and malicious prosecution after he was suspended from the show following critical comments of a member of the Minneapolis City Council, who later falsely accused the plaintiff of threatening to kill him.  Jury awarded plaintiff $3.00, including $1.00 in compensatory damages and $2.00 in punitive damages against the Councilman.  The summary fails to divide the award among the various counts.  Flowers v. City of Minneapolis, Case No. 05-CV-2349 (D. Minn. Nov. 30, 2007). 

California Verdicts and Settlements – Defamation Per Se

In a defamation per se action, defendant called plaintiff a “murderer, an idiot, […]

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