SLANDER. In Torts. Words falsely spoken, which are injurious to the reputa tion of another.
False, defamatory words spoken of anoth er. See Odger, Libel & S. *7.
There is a distinction, probably the result of some lijstorical accident, between slander and libel; in libel any defamatory matter is prima fade libellous while the same mat ter when spoken would require proof of spe cial damage, excepting in the classes of cases mentioned infra, which are actionable per se.
Verbal slander. Actionable words are of two descriptions : first, those actionable in themselves, without proof of special dam ages; and, secondly, those actionable only in respect of some actual consequential dam ages.
Words of the first description must im pute: First, the guilt of some offence for which the party, if guilty, might be indicted and punished by the criminal courts ; as, to call a person a "traitor," "thief," "highwayman," or to say that he is guilty of "perjury," "forgery," "murder," and the like. And al though the imputation of guilt be general, without stating the particulars of the pre tended crime, it g actionable ; Cro. Jac. 114, 142 ; 5 B. & P. 335 ; Gaines v. Belding, 56 Ark. 100, 19 S. W. 236 ; Savoie v. Scanlan, 43 La. Ann. 967, 9 South. 916, 26 Am. St. Rep. 200; Harman v. Cundiff, 82 Va. 239; it is enough if the offence charged be a misde meanor involving moral turpitude ; Bigel. Torts 44. If the charge is that the plaintiff has already suffered the punishment, the words, if false, are actionable ; ibid.; see Post Pub. Co. v. Moloney, 50 Ohio St. 71, 33 N. E. 921. Words imputing unchastity to an unmarried woman, though the acts charged are not criminal, were held actionable with out alleging or proving special damage ; Bat tles v. Tyson, 77 Neb. 563, 110 N. W. 299, 24 L. R. A. (N. S.) 577, 15 Ann. Cas. 1241; Coop er v. Seaverns, 81 Kan. 267, 105 Pac. 509, 25 L. R. A. (N. S.) 517, 135 Am. St. Rep. 359, where the court refused to follow the com mon law rule. See Battles v. Tyson, 77 Neb.
563, 110 N. W. 299, 24 L. R. A. (N. S.) 577, 15 Ann. Cas. 1241.
Second, that the party has a disease or distemper which him unfit for so ciety; Bac. Abr. Slander (B, 2). An action can, therefore, be sustained for calling a man a leper ; Cro. Jac. 144. Imputations of hav ing at the present time a venereal disease are actionable in themseLves ; 8 C. B. N. S. 9 ; Golderman v. Stearns, 7 Gray (Mass.) 181; Williams v. Holdredge, 22 Barb. (N. Y.) 390 ; Watson v. McCarthy, 2 Ga. 57, 46 Am. Dec. 380. But charging another with having had a contagious disease is not actionable, as be will not on that account be excluded from so ciety ; 2 Term 473; 2 Stra. 1189.
Third, unfitness in an officer, who holds an office to which profit or emolument is attach ed, either in respect of morals or inability to discharge the duties of the office ; in such a case an action lies ; 4 Co. 16 a; 5 id. 125 ; 2 Ld. Raym. 1369 ; Bull. N. P. 4. The holder of an office, not being an office of profit, can not, in the absence of special damage, main tain an action of slander for words imputing to him misconduct and consequent unfitness for the office, unless the imputation relates to his conduct in the office, or unless, if true, it would lead to his removal therefrom ;  1 Q. B. 797 ; or where the office is not one of profit, and whether there is a power of removal from the office for such miscon duct or not ;  1 Q. B. 571.
Fourth, the want of integrity or capacity, whether mental or pecuniary, in the conduct of a profession, trade, or business, in which the party is engaged, is actionable ; as, to accuse an attorney or artist of inability, in attention, or want of integrity ; 3 Wils. 187 ; 2 W. Bla. 750; or a clergyman of being a drunkard; M'Millan v. Birch, 1 Binn. (Pa.) 178, 2 Am. Dec. 426, is actionable. Words spoken of a butcher, charging him with slaughtering diseased cattle for sale for human food are actionable per se; Blum hardt v. Rohr, 70 Md. 328, 17 Atl. 266.