Defamation is defined on various legal online resources (as well as here, and Libel is written and published defamation.

  1. Libel is defamation and defined as a false and unprivileged statement of fact that is harmful to someone's reputation, and is published as a result of negligence or malice.

  2. Libel per se is libel without the need for any explanation, when "libel is clear on its face."

What is the self-explanatory aspect of Libel per se as opposed to the explanation that is needed with Libel?

What are some examples of the differences and/or the inter-relatedness of Libel and Libel per se?

Must you always shown to be Libeling in order to Libel per se?

1 Answer 1


Defamation per se (thus libel per se) pertains to the nature of the statement and the question of whether there was harm done to the person. For some accusatory statements, it must be proven that the statement actually caused damage to the person. If the statement falls into one of 4 categories, it can be defamation per se, meaning that by its nature it causes damage. The categories are accusation of involvement in criminal activity, having a loathsome, contagious or infectious disease, sexual looseness, and professional incompetence: if you falsely accuse a person of being an inept prostitute with chlamydia, it is taken for granted that you have caused damage. (I understand that there has been some contraction of the sphere of per se liability especially for the claim of having a disease). For other kinds of accusations, viz. defamation per quod, it must be shown that there was actual harm done. Falsely reporting that an administrator had said "Nobody wants to send their daughter to the rape school" doesn't fall into one of these 4 categories, thus it would have to be proven that the statement caused some harm.

  • Thanks, that makes sense. As a followup, what happens if someone substantially admits to "sexual looseness"? Bragging about the number of relationships, either in public or via a released recording? Think Trump here. Do they lessen their case against the person who allegedly liabled them? Or is that a question for a court to hash out? Nov 11, 2016 at 23:23
  • Well, (1) as a public figure it's vastly harder to sue someone for defamation – there's a rule about that. (2) Truth is a great defense. (3) If a person's reputation is already seriously sullied on a particular issue then it's hard to damage a damaged reputation. (4) Depending on what the person said, it might be seen as an expression of opinion (such as "I think X has questionable sexual ethics").
    – user6726
    Nov 12, 2016 at 0:18
  • @user6726 I believe BlueDogRanch's follow-up question refers to self-publication rather than defamation of a public figure. When the "defamed" plaintiff admits his "sexual looseness", then that is an absolute defense in a defamation lawsuit where the statement at issue alludes to plaintiff's sexual looseness, want of chastity, promiscuity, or equivalent. Jun 8, 2018 at 19:55

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