California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) (2017)

1720. Affirmative Defense—Truth

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1720.Affirmative Defense—Truth
[Name of defendant] is not responsible for [name of plaintiff]’s harm, if
any, if [he/she] proves that [his/her] statement(s) about [name of plaintiff]
[was/were] true. [Name of defendant] does not have to prove that the
statement(s) [was/were] true in every detail, so long as the statement(s)
[was/were] substantially true.
New September 2003; Revised October 2008
Directions for Use
This instruction is to be used only in cases involving private plaintiffs on matters
of private concern. In cases involving public figures or matters of public concern,
the burden of proving falsity is on the plaintiff.
Sources and Authority
• “Truth, of course, is an absolute defense to any libel action.” (Campanelli v.
Regents of Univ. of Cal. (1996) 44 Cal.App.4th 572, 581–582 [51 Cal.Rptr.2d
• “California law permits the defense of substantial truth and would absolve a
defendant even if she cannot ‘justify every word of the alleged defamatory
matter; it is sufficient if the substance of the charge be proved true, irrespective
of slight inaccuracy in the details.’ ‘Minor inaccuracies do not amount to falsity
so long as ‘the substance, the gist, the sting, of the libelous charge be
justified.’ ” (GetFugu, Inc. v. Patton Boggs LLP (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 141,
154 [162 Cal.Rptr.3d 831], internal citation omitted.)
Secondary Sources
5 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 556–560, 611, 614
4Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 45, Defamation, § 45.10 (Matthew Bender)
30 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 340, Libel and Slander, § 340.55
(Matthew Bender)
14 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 142, Libel and Slander (Defamation),
§ 142.39 (Matthew Bender)
1 California Civil Practice: Torts §§ 21:19, 21:52 (Thomson Reuters)