A Defamatory Statement Must Be Of And Concerning The Plaintiff

Colloquium  1. The offer of extrinsic evidence to show that an alleged defamatory statement referred to the plaintiff even though it did not explicitly mention the plaintiff.  2. The introductory averments in a plaintiff’s pleading setting out all the special circumstances that make the challenged words defamatory.

Black’s Law Dictionary, Seventh Edition, at p. 258.

One of the basic elements of a defamation lawsuit is that the alleged defamatory statement must be of and concerning the Plaintiff.  At common law this was called colloquium.  What this is means is that the average reasonable person must understand that the statement is about the Plaintiff.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:  Suppose I wrote in a widely read newspaper that "officials" from XYZ organization were diverting funds for their own use and agitating terrorism. Now let’s suppose that the CEO gets wind of my statement and wants to bring a lawsuit.  Arguably, the statement in the newspaper is defamatory, but is it sufficiently specific enough so a reasonable person would know I was referring to the CEO?  I would argue no.

Suppose instead, that I wrote that the Vice-president of XYZ organization was an adulterer and used illegal drugs.  And suppose further that there is only one Vice-president of XYZ.  This would probably be specific enough to meet the colloquium element of defamation.

So now you know what colloquium means.  Go and tell your friends that you learned something new today.

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