St. Mary's Law Journal


This Article reviews the rules and reasoning various jurisdictions have maintained in defamation actions supported by self-publication. This type of defamation action is commonly known as self-defamation. Before the law will hold the originator of a defamatory statement liable for defamation, publication of the defamatory comments must occur. Generally, defamatory communications are those communications which tend to injure one’s reputation. Publication normally occurs when one communicates the defamatory matter to “one other than the person defamed.” Originally, courts considered defamation actions valid only when the defamed person alleged that the originator directly published the statement to a third person. Under a developing view, however, the defamed party may recover damages even though the originator published the defamatory matter solely to the defamed party. This position is supported by the philosophy that, given a choice between disclosure and dishonesty, dishonesty is not a reasonable alternative. Jurisdictions who have considered the issue of self-publication fall into three categories. The first group includes states which have rejected defamation actions supported by self-publication and states in which federal courts have decided the state's highest court would reject this argument. The second group is composed of those states which allow self-publication to fulfill the publication requirement when it is reasonably foreseeable the defamatory matter would come to the knowledge of a third person in the ordinary course of events. The third group of jurisdictions allow a defamation action supported by self-publication when it is reasonable for the originator of the defamatory matter to believe the defamed party would be under a strong compulsion to disclose the contents of the defamatory statements to a third person.


St. Mary's University School of Law