Unintended Publication

If you’ve been reading the California Defamation Law Blog for any period of time, you’d know that publication is a necessary element of any cause of action for defamation.

What you probably don’t know, however, is that the publication element can be met even if the publication was unintentional, or negligent.

For example, suppose I send you a personal letter to your house full of all sorts of defamatory statements.  Suppose as well, that I know you are rarely home and that other people in your home may read your e-mail.

While this would not constitute an intentional publication since I addressed it only to you, it would most certainly constitute negligent publication because I knew that you were seldom at home and that other people might read my letter.

On the other hand, suppose you live alone and that I send you the same letter and someone steals my letter before it gets to you and they post it on the Internet.  Well, this would probably not constitute publication because it is not foreseeable that someone might steal my letter.

So, the bottom line is that publication can be negligent and intentional.  I bet you didn’t know that.

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