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AMI 408 Issues—Claim for Damages Based Upon Defamation—Public Figure

Arkansas Supreme Court Committee On Jury Instructions-Civil

Ark. Model Jury Instr., Civil AMI 408
Arkansas Model Jury Instructions-Civil
November 2021 Update
Arkansas Supreme Court Committee On Jury Instructions-Civil
Chapter 4. Intentional Torts and Defamation
AMI 408 Issues—Claim for Damages Based Upon Defamation—Public Figure
(Plaintiff) claims damages from (defendant) for defamation and has the burden of proving each of the following five essential propositions:
First, that [he][she] sustained damages;
Second, that (defendant) published a false statement of fact concerning (plaintiff);
Third, that the statement of fact was defamatory;
Fourth, that the publication of the statement was a proximate cause of (plaintiff)'s damages.
(Plaintiff) must prove these first four propositions by a preponderance of the evidence. I have defined the term “preponderance of the evidence” in a separate instruction.
Fifth, the burden is also on (plaintiff) to prove by clear and convincing evidence that (defendant) published the defamatory fact, knowing it was false or with a high degree of awareness of its probable falsity. “Clear and convincing evidence” is proof that enables you without hesitation to reach a firm conviction that the allegation is true.
[If you find from the evidence in this case that each of these propositions has been proved, then your verdict should be for (plaintiff); but if, on the other hand, you find from the evidence that any of these propositions has not been proved, then your verdict should be for (defendant).]
Do not use the final bracketed paragraph when the case is submitted on interrogatories.
Use AMI 411 and 412 when this instruction is given.
AMI 202 should precede this instruction.
Whether a defendant is a public figure is a mixed question of law and fact to be resolved by the court. Southall v. Little Rock Newspapers, Inc., 332 Ark. 123, 964 S.W.2d 187 (1998); Little Rock Newspapers, Inc. v. Fitzhugh, 330 Ark. 561, 579, 954 S.W.2d 914, 924 (1997), cert. denied, 523 U.S. 1095, 118 S.Ct. 1563, 140 L.Ed.2d 794 (1998); Thomson Newspaper Publishing, Inc. v. Coody, 320 Ark. 455, 896 S.W.2d 897 (1995), cert. denied, 516 U.S. 1008, 116 S.Ct. 563, 133 L.Ed.2d 489 (1995); Cornett v. Prather, 293 Ark. 108, 110, 737 S.W.2d 159, 160 (1987).
The definition of “clear and convincing evidence” in this instruction is a combination of two different formulations that have been recited by the Arkansas Supreme Court. In a number of cases and a variety of contexts, the court has stated the definition as “proof that produces a firm conviction in you that the allegation is true.” See, Carter v. Four Seasons Funding Corp., 351 Ark. 637, 653, 97 S.W.3d 387, 395 (2003) (usury claim); Ward v. Williams, 354 Ark. 168, 118 S.W.3d 513, 521 (2003) (oral contract for sale of land); Howell v. Scroll Technologies, 343 Ark. 297, 304, 35 S.W.3d 800, 805 (2001) (workers' compensation); Baker v. Arkansas Dept. of Human Services, 340 Ark. 42, 48, 8 S.W.3d 499, 503 (2000) (termination of parental rights). The court does not, however, appear to intend this definition to mean something different than other language it has recited (“proof so clear, direct, weighty, and convincing as to enable you to come to a clear conviction of the matter asserted”) and in fact has sometimes included both formulations in the same opinion. See, e.g., Howell, supra; Kelly v. Kelly, 264 Ark. 865, 870, 575 S.W.2d 672, 675–676 (1979). The Committee combined language from both into a hybrid definition that appears to capture the essence of the principle.
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