Commercial Division Blog
Whether Particular Words Are Defamatory Is for a Court to Determine in the First Instance
On December 3, 2020, the First Department issued a decision in Savitt v. Cantor, 2020 NY Slip Op. 07305, holding that whether particular words are defamatory presents a legal question to be resolved by the court in the first instance, explaining:
The complaint fails to state a cause of action for slander or libel per se, as none of the allegedly defamatory statements made by defendants accuse plaintiff Leah Savitt of ineptitude in her profession, and the complaint does not allege how, if at all, her professional reputation was damaged by the offending statements. Contrary to plaintiff's contention that the motion court improperly determined on a motion to dismiss that the remarks were not defamatory (except for one, for which no special damages were pleaded), whether particular words are defamatory presents a legal question to be resolved by the court in the first instance.
(Internal quotations and citations omitted).
Civil litigation can involve claims that cause real reputational harm, but not every statement can be the subject of a defamation claim. Contact Schlam Stone & Dolan partner John Lundin at firstname.lastname@example.org if you or a client have questions about whether statements about you or your business can be the basis for a claim for defamation.