Special Damages Must Be Specifically Alleged

Today’s point is an obvious but important one: Special damages must be specifically alleged in a defamation complaint.

Let me give you two examples to show you what I mean: One where the court said the pleading was sufficient, and one where the court said it was not.

In one case plaintiff alleged that because of defendant’s publication of the libel, he lost his job with a specific employer, for a specific period of time and for a specific amount of money.  The court held this was sufficiently specific because it apprised the defendant of the exact nature of plaintiff’s claim, which allowed the Defendant to prepare a proper defense.

In another more recent case, plaintiff alleged:

As a direct and proximate result of Defendant’s News Report, Plaintiffs have suffered damage to their reputations in an amount to be proven at trial.  [¶] [] Plaintiffs are informed and believe, and thereupon allege, that the conduct of Defendants was intentional, and done willfully, maliciously, with ill will towards Plaintiffs, and with conscious disregard for Plaintiffs’ rights.  Defendants’ conduct justifies an award of exemplary and punitive damages.

See the difference?  In example one you know exactly why the plaintiff is suing the defendant.  You know what his alleged loss is.  

The other example, in contrast, could be applied to any case involving alleged defamatory news reports.  There is simply no manner of discerning what the plaintiff’s damages might be from the allegations.

So now you know.  Be specific about your special damages, unless you want to spend more time and money opposing a demurrer.




  1. NewtonPulsifer says

    I’m having trouble finding a citation for this in California law. Easy to find in Federal 9(g).
    What about California?

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