CACI No. VF-1704. Defamation per se - Affirmative Defense - Truth (Private Figure - Matter of Private Concern)

Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (2020 edition)

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VF-1704.Defamation per se - Affirmative Defense - Truth (Private
Figure - Matter of Private Concern)
We answer the questions submitted to us as follows:
1. Did [name of defendant] make the following statement to [a
person/persons] other than [name of plaintiff]? [Insert claimed per
se defamatory statement.]
1. Yes No
1. If your answer to question 1 is yes, then answer question 2. If you
answered no, stop here, answer no further questions, and have
the presiding juror sign and date this form.
2. Did the [person/people] to whom the statement was made
reasonably understand that the statement was about [name of
plaintiff]?
2. Yes No
2. If your answer to question 2 is yes, then answer question 3. If you
answered no, stop here, answer no further questions, and have
the presiding juror sign and date this form.
3. Did [this person/these people] reasonably understand the
statement to mean that [insert ground(s) for defamation per se, e.g.,
“[name of plaintiff] had committed a crime”]?
3. Yes No
3. If your answer to question 3 is yes, then answer question 4. If you
answered no, stop here, answer no further questions, and have
the presiding juror sign and date this form.
4. Was the statement substantially true?
4. Yes No
4. If your answer to question 4 is no, then answer question 5. If you
answered yes, stop here, answer no further questions, and have
the presiding juror sign and date this form.
5. Did [name of defendant] fail to use reasonable care to determine
the truth or falsity of the statement?
5. Yes No
5. If your answer to question 5 is yes, then answer question 6. If you
answered no, stop here, answer no further questions, and have
the presiding juror sign and date this form.
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ACTUAL DAMAGES
6. Was [name of defendant]’s conduct a substantial factor in causing
[name of plaintiff] actual harm?
6. Yes No
6. If your answer to question 6 is yes, then answer question 7. If you
answered no, skip question 7 and answer question 8.
7. What are [name of plaintiff]’s actual damages for:
[a. Harm to [name of plaintiff]’s property, business, trade,
profession, or occupation? .............. $]
[b. Expenses [name of plaintiff] had to pay as a result of the
defamatory statements? ................ $]
[c. Harm to [name of plaintiff]’s reputation? ...... $]
[d. Shame, mortification, or hurt feelings? ....... $]
TOTAL $
7. [If [name of plaintiff] has not proved any actual damages for
either c or d, then answer question 8. If [name of plaintiff] has
proved actual damages for both c and d, skip question 8 and
answer question 9.]
ASSUMED DAMAGES
8. What are the damages you award [name of plaintiff] for the
assumed harm to [his/her/nonbinary pronoun] reputation and for
shame, mortification, or hurt feelings? You must award at least a
nominal sum.
$
8. Regardless of your answer to question 8, answer question 9.
PUNITIVE DAMAGES
9. Has [name of plaintiff] proved by clear and convincing evidence
that [name of defendant] acted with malice, oppression, or fraud?
9. Yes No
9. If your answer to question 9 is yes, then answer question 10. If
you answered no, stop here, answer no further questions, and
have the presiding juror sign and date this form.
10. What amount, if any, do you award as punitive damages against
[name of defendant]?
$
VF-1704 DEFAMATION
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Signed: Presiding Juror
Dated:
After [this verdict form has/all verdict forms have] been signed, notify
the [clerk/bailiff/court attendant] that you are ready to present your
verdict in the courtroom.
New September 2003; Revised December 2005, April 2008, October 2008,
December 2010, December 2016, May 2017
Directions for Use
This verdict form is based on CACI No. 1704, Defamation per se - Essential
Factual Elements (Private Figure - Matter of Private Concern), and CACI No.
1720, Affirmative Defense - Truth. Delete question 4 if the affirmative defense of the
truth is not at issue.
The special verdict forms in this section are intended only as models. They may
need to be modified depending on the facts of the case.
If there is a dispute as to whether the statement in question 1 is one of fact or
opinion, an additional question or questions will be needed. See CACI No. 1707,
Fact Versus Opinion.
Multiple statements may need to be set out separately in question 1, and if separate
damages are claimed as to each statement, separate verdict forms may be needed for
each statement because all the elements will need to be found as to each statement.
Give the jury question 3 only if the statement is not defamatory on its face.
In question 7, omit damage items c and d if the plaintiff elects not to present proof
of actual damages for harm to reputation and for shame, mortification, or hurt
feelings. Whether or not proof for both categories is offered, include question 8. For
these categories, the jury may find that no actual damages have been proven but
must still make an award of assumed damages.
If specificity is not required, users do not have to itemize all the damages listed in
question 7. The breakdown is optional depending on the circumstances.
Additional questions on the issue of punitive damages may be needed if the
defendant is a corporate or other entity.
Omit question 10 if the issue of punitive damages has been bifurcated.
If there are multiple causes of action, users may wish to combine the individual
forms into one form. If different damages are recoverable on different causes of
action, replace the damages tables in all of the verdict forms with CACI No. VF-
3920, Damages on Multiple Legal Theories.
If the jury is being given the discretion under Civil Code section 3288 to award
prejudgment interest (see Bullis v. Security Pac. Nat’l Bank (1978) 21 Cal.3d 801,
814 [148 Cal.Rptr. 22, 582 P.2d 109]), give CACI No. 3935, Prejudgment Interest.
DEFAMATION VF-1704
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This verdict form may need to be augmented for the jury to make any factual
findings that are required in order to calculate the amount of prejudgment interest.
VF-1704 DEFAMATION
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© Judicial Council of California.