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Rowe v. Metz - Defamation Case - Presumed Damages Slander Per Se

Defamation LawColorado law is comprised of statute which sets forth the law, as well as caselaw which interprets the statutes. The two must be examined together for a complete picture of the law in defamation. In Rowe v. Metz , 579 P.2d 83 (Colo. 1978), the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the concept of presumed damages for slander per se in cases involving private Plaintiffs. Slander per se involves statements concerning the commission of crimes or professional misconduct, among other matters. Such statements are considered to be particularly damaging and obviously statements of fact on their face. Whether someone has committed a crime or engaged in professional misconduct can be proven true or false. Such allegations are matters of fact, rather than opinion. In this case the Plaintiff was not public official or figure and had established with sufficient evidence that the Defendant made slanderous remarks against him.

Presumed Damages

Presumed damages means, in relation to slander per se, that a Plaintiff does not have to prove specific damages. There is a presumption that a person is harmed when made the object of such false statements of fact. For example a statement that someone else committed sexual assault is defamatory on its face. The concept of presumed damages comes from the common law. Common law is not specifically set forth in statute, however comes from legal case precedent. The Colorado Supreme Court found that the rationale for presumed damages arises from the difficulty of proving damages in matters of accusations involving slander per se. "This is particularly true where the defamatory remarks relate to the conduct of an individual's business affairs. It is the rare case in which a slander will destroy business profits in such a way that the loss can be directly traced to the slanderous remarks." There is no set method by which a court will calculate presumed damages. The types of damage that can be presumed from public allegations of serious misconduct are, for example:

  • humiliation
  • embarrassment
  • repetitional harm
  • mental suffering
  • anxiety

First Amendment

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the freedom of speech, however there are limitations. The freedom of speech is not absolute. The classic example of non protected speech is yelling fire in a crowded theatre. The Colorado Supreme Count in Rowe considered the First Amendment freedom of speech and determined that a prohibition against private defamation does not abridge the freedom. The balance "should be struck in favor of the private plaintiff where his reputation is injured by a non-media defendant in a purely private context."

Turning Change Into Opportunity in Colorado

A knowledgeable and experienced attorney from a defamation law firm can guide you through Colorado defamation matters by negotiating, mediating and litigating. This allows you to focus on to a better future. Defamation matters are difficult to navigate alone.

Sabra Janko from Janko Family Law Solutions is a knowledgeable and experienced attorney who protects your best interests and ensures that you are aware of your legal rights and obligations. Contact us at 719-344-5523 for a free 30-minute informational consultation or complete our online form.

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