A defamatory communication is one which would subject the plaintiffs to hatred, contempt or ridicule or tend to diminish the esteem, respect, goodwill or confidence in which each is held or to excite adverse, derogatory or unpleasant feelings or opinions against them.
Hyde wrote a book about Farnsworth’s character, describing Farnsworth as the laziest man in the world. Plaintiff victim challenged the order from the Circuit Court, Klamath County (Oregon), which sustained defendant author's demurrer to victim's complaint for libel arising out of statements contained in author's book that victim was lazy. Victim contended that the statements in question were libelous.
Was the statment considered defamatory?
The court reversed and remanded. The court found that the words in question were capable of being interpreted to mean that victim was extremely lazy, so much so that he was a poor farmer and had his wife do most of the hard work around the farm. These words were capable of being interpreted to subject victim to ridicule and diminish the esteem and respect in which he was held by a substantial number of people in his community. It held that particularly in a farming community, a substantial number of victim's associates might have looked upon their fellow with lower esteem, or perhaps with contempt, if they believed the words.