Malicious / Injurious Falsehood
What is Malicious Falsehood?
The tort of malicious falsehood sometimes known as injurious falsehood consists of a false statement made by the defendant to a third party concerning the plaintiff whereby he suffers loss through the action of this third party. The statement complained of must be:-
false in fact;
detrimental to the Plaintiff;
actuated by actual malice in the sense of a wrongful intention to injure the plaintiff;
published maliciously, in which it requires to prove the motive and state of mind; and
special damage has followed as the direct and natural result of the publication
However, if a false statement is made, even if is carelessly believed by the Defendant that the statement is true and without any motive to injure the Plaintiff, then such statement would not amount to any malicious or injurious falsehood.
Types of Malicious / Injurious Falsehood
Slander of title;
Slander of goods; or
other malicious falsehood
Slander of Title
Slander of Title is known as false oral or written statements made and published with actual malice in disparagement of the plaintiff's legal or equitable title to land or goods and causing damage. A company can bring an action in respect of words that damage its trading reputation provided that they can prove the words complained of had injuriously affected the company.
Slander of Goods
An action for that variety of malicious falsehood commonly known as slander of goods lies whenever a person maliciously publish a false statement in disparagement of another person's goods, and thereby causes him special damage.
Elements of Slander of Goods
A publication in disparagement of another person's goods
That was malicious; and
The law relating to malicious falsehood is covered by s 6 of the Defamation Act 1957, which reads as follows:
6. Slander of title, etc
(1) In any action for slander of title, slander of goods or other malicious falsehood, it shall not be necessary to allege or prove special damage —
(a) if the words upon which the action is founded are calculated to cause pecuniary damage to the plaintiff and are published in writing or other permanent form; or
(b) if the said words are calculated to cause pecuniary damage to the plaintiff in respect of any office, profession, calling, trade or business held or carried on by him at the time of the publication.
The Brief Difference Between Defamation and Malicious / Injurious Falsehood
Actions for, slander of title or goods or malicious falsehood are in a category of their own and are distinct from actions for defamation. An action for slander of title or goods or malicious falsehood is not concerned with injury to reputation as in defamation.
The plaintiff in malicious or injurious falsehood action has to prove that the false statement was made by the defendant with malice intention. On the other hand, in defamation claim, the plaintiff is not required to prove that a defendant has malice intention.
In malicious falsehood, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant published the words knowing them to be false. In a defamation action, defamatory words are presumed to be false, and it is up to the defendant to prove it to be true.