Haynes v. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

8 F.3d 1222

 

RULE:

Proof of special damages is not required in a case in which the public revelation of personal facts is claimed to be an invasion of privacy; even so, a plaintiff is not allowed to evade the rule that requires proof of such damages in defamation cases (outside the per se categories) by attempting to prove that some of the personal facts publicized about him are false, unless he is prepared to prove special damages.

FACTS:

The author, a journalist, wrote a book entitled "The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America," which the publisher printed. The book discussed the life of one black woman who had married and later divorced the former husband. The book had statements from the woman that her former husband had left his children alone at night when he was supposed to be watching them, lost a job or jobs because of drinking, and spent money on a car that he should have used to buy shoes for his children. The former husband filed suit for defamation and invasion of privacy. The court granted summary judgment to defendants.

ISSUE:

Does the requirement of proving special damages prevent the plaintiff from basing a libel claim on two statements in a book that he contended are false?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

The court affirmed the decision of the district court, which had granted summary judgment to defendants on the former husband's claims for defamation and invasion of privacy. The court held that the statements were not defamatory because these statements did not show the former husband in a worse light than a bare recitation of the uncontested facts about his behavior in relation to the woman and her children would have done and because the alleged falsehoods were merely illustrations of undoubted truths about the former husband's character at the time.

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