Defamation and Invasion of Privacy
The rules governing liability for defamation make about as much sense as the rules governing the conjugation of irregular verbs in French. What follows is an attempt to present, as clearly as possible, a picture of the current rules.
The tort of defamation, as it existed at common law, can be defined as the unconsented to and unprivileged intentional communication to a third person of a false statement about the plaintiff which tends to harm the reputation of the plaintiff in the eyes of the community. Consent and privilege are affirmative defenses that must be pleaded and proved by the defendant. Once defamatory meaning is apparent, injury to reputation is generally presumed as a matter of law. Moreover, the plaintiff is given the benefit of a rebuttable presumption that the statement is false, thus making truth a defense to be pleaded and proved by the defendant. Therefore, the plaintiff's prima facie case consists of a simple allegation that the defendant intentionally communicated to a third person a statement about the plaintiff which tended to expose the plaintiff to such things as public hatred, shame, obloquy, contumely, odium, contempt, ridicule, aversion, ostracism, degradation, or disgrace.
It should be noted that the tort of defamation is in substance one of strict liability. That is to say, the only intent that is required is the in-