Libel is the act of publishing a false statement that causes people to have a bad opinion of someone. Also known as calumny, verification, defamation, slander or traducement is the oral or written communication of a false statement about another that unjustly harms their reputation and usually constitutes a tort or crime. In some countries, including South Korea, a true statement can also be considered defamation.
Defamation consists of libel and slander. Libel is actionable upon mere commission without the necessity of proving damage. However, as a general rule, slander is not actionable per se, except in four instances. They are:
- Implying that a person has committed a criminal offence. See the case of Farashi V. Yakubu (1970) NWLR 17.
- Saying that a person has an infectious disease. Bloodworth V. Gray (1844) 135 ER 140
- Accusing a woman or girl of unchastity. Kerr V. Kennedy (1942) All ER 412
- Implying that a person is incompetent in his or her profession, business or office.
- Trespass to person: For instance, assault and battery, each gives a right of action in themselves.
- Trespass to Chattel: Trespass to goods is actionable per se.
- Trespass to Land: Right to sue arises from every unlawful entry, or trespass to land, even though no actual damage was done to the land.
Product Liability: Consumer Protection
Product liability is the liability of a producer, retailer importer, or supplier for any loss or injury caused by his product whether due to its defect and so forth. In the area of product liability, strict liability is common as in most cases, the alleged tortuous acts are strictly prohibited by statute.
In the case of Pearks, Gunsten & Tece V. Ward (1902) 2 KB1, Gammon V. A.G Hong Kong (1985) AC 1. The appellant company was held liable for the acts of its employees who sold its fresh butter mixed with water. Explaining on the strict liability nature of consumer protection laws in England, Channel J. in this case said that:
“ the legislature has thought it so important to prevent the particular act from being committed that it absolutely forbids it to be done, and if it is done the offender is liable to a penalty, whether he has any mens rea (guilty mind) or not and whether or not he intended to commit a breach of the law”.
Liability for Animals – Libel
In a situation where animal attacks and injure someone, the law of torts holds them (the owners) strictly liable for injuries caused by their animals. The liability for animals under the law of torts is classified in two:
- Scienter Action (Liability for Dangerous Animals)
- Cattle Trespass
Scienter Action (Liability for Dangerous Animals)
This part of the law of torts concerns liability for animals that are dangerous.
Liability in this situation is usually predicated in whether or not the owner of the animal had prior knowledge of the animals conduct. Scienter action classified dangerous animals under two categories:
- Animal Ferae naturae
- Animal Mansuetae Naturae
Animal Farea Naturae: These are animals which are dangerous by nature; they include lions, tigers, cheetahs, elephants and other wild animals that can cause harm to others.
Animal Mansuetae Naturae: These are animals that are normally tame but occasionally attack human beings and cause harm. A very good example of this is dogs. Dogs are tame, but once in while they attack and cause injury to human being.
In this situation, liability only arises if the owner of the animals had previous knowledge of the dangerous behavior of the animals.
Thus, what the plaintiff has to prove to establish liability is the fact that the animal had vicious tendency and the owner was aware of this tendency.