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AMI410Issues—Claim for Damages Based Upon Defamation—Private Figure—Report of Official Proceedi...

Arkansas Supreme Court Committee On Jury Instructions-Civil

Ark. Model Jury Instr., Civil AMI 410
Arkansas Model Jury Instructions-Civil
November 2020 Update
Arkansas Supreme Court Committee On Jury Instructions-Civil
Chapter 4. Intentional Torts and Defamation
AMI 410 Issues—Claim for Damages Based Upon Defamation—Private Figure—Report of Official Proceeding or Public Meeting
(Plaintiff) claims damages from (defendant) for defamation and has the burden of proving each of the following five essential propositions defining defamation:
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 (defendant) acted [with negligence in failing to determine the truth of the statement prior to its publication][or][with knowledge the statement was false]; and
Fifth, that the publication of the statement was a proximate cause of (plaintiff)'s damages.
In addition to these essential propositions, there is an additional proposition (plaintiff) must prove.
The statement (plaintiff) claims (defendant) published was of an [official proceeding][or][public meeting]. There is a “fair report” privilege with respect to such a [proceeding][or][meeting], under which (defendant) is not liable unless the publication exceeds the scope of the privilege. Plaintiff contends that the publication exceeded the scope of the privilege and has the burden of proving that the publication did not accurately report the substance of the [proceeding][or][meeting] and that the (defendant) failed to do what was reasonably necessary to insure that the publication was accurate and complete or a fair abridgment.
[If you find from the evidence in this case that each of the five essential propositions defining defamation has been proved and that the proposition necessary to overcome the privilege has been proved, then your verdict should be for (plaintiff); but if, on the other hand, you find from the evidence that any of the five essential elements defining defamation or that the proposition necessary to overcome the privilege has not been proved, then your verdict should be for (defendant).]
NOTE ON USE
Use this instruction only if the privilege claimed is based on a report of an official proceeding or a public meeting.
Use AMI 411 and 412 when this instructions is given.
Do not use the final bracketed paragraph when the case is submitted on interrogatories.
COMMENT
In Butler v. Hearst—Argyle Television, 345 Ark. 462, 49 S.W.3d 116 (2001), the court applied the fair reporting privilege as defined in the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 611 (1977) and concluded that neither the fact that the publication was motivated by malice nor the fact that the defendant believed the statement to be false negates the benefit of the privilege. See also KARK-TV v. Simon, 280 Ark. 228, 656 S.W.2d 702 (1983) (court found if appellant had the privilege, it was lost by appellant's failure to give an accurate and fair report since the report wrongfully accused appellees of involvement in robbery); Jones v. Commercial Printing Co., 249 Ark. 952, 463 S.W.2d 92 (1971) (instructions requiring actual malice in defamation involving the erroneous reporting of court proceedings were in error since judicial proceedings are capable of exact reporting in every instance); Brandon v. Gazette Publishing Co., 234 Ark. 332, 352 S.W.2d 92 (1961) (newspaper's publication of governor's press releases regarding investigation of nursing home considered privileged since releases were published accurately, impartially and in good faith).
The court most recently reaffirmed the fair-report privilege as a defense to a defamation action in Whiteside v. Russellville Newspapers, Inc., 2009 Ark. 135, 295 S.W.3d 798. There, the privilege attached to a newspaper article citing a witness statement in an active police investigation that was inadvertently but voluntarily released to the publisher. Employing the substantial truth doctrine, the court further found that the privilege was not eliminated since the article was in essence true.
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