Badame v. Lampke, 243

Decision Date19 October 1955
Docket NumberNo. 243,243
Citation242 N.C. 755,89 S.E.2d 466
PartiesSol BADAME v. Edgar B. LAMPKE and Singer Sewing Machine Company, a corporation.
CourtNorth Carolina Supreme Court

Bell, Bradley, Gebhardt & Delaney, Charlotte, for plaintiff, appellant.

Helms & Mulliss, and Hohn D. Hicks, Charlotte, for defendants, appellees.

JOHNSON, Justice.

Decision here turns on whether the words alleged to have been spoken of the plaintiff are actionable per se.

Defamatory words may be actionable per se, that is, in themselves, or they may be actionable per quod, that is, only upon allegation and proof of special damage. However, both classes of words are actionable for the single reason that they cause pecuniary damage to those concerning whom they are maliciously spoken. The difference between the two classes of words is in the mode of proving the resultant damage. As to words actionable per se, the law treats their injurious character as a fact of common acceptance, and consequently the courts take judicial notice of it. Where such words are spoken, the law raises a prima facie presumption of malice and a conclusive presumption of legal injury and damage, entitling the victim of the defamation to recover damages, nominal at least, without specific proof of injury or damage. Deese v. Collins, 191 N.C. 749, 133 S.E. 92; Oates v. Wachovia Bank & Trust Co., 205 N.C. 14, 169 S.E. 869; Broadway v. Cope, 208 N.C. 85, 179 S.E. 452; Kindley v. Privette, 241 N.C. 140, 84 S.E.2d 660; 33 Am.Jur., Libel and Slander, Sections 5, 266, and 282. On the other hand, if the injurious character of the spoken statement appears, not on its face as a matter of general acceptance, but only in consequence of extrinsic, explanatory facts showing its injurious effect, such utterance is said to be actionable only per quod, and in such cases the injurious character of the words must be pleaded and proved, and in order to recover there must be allegation and proof of some special damage. Deese v. Collina, supra.

It is well settled that false words imputing to a merchant or business man conduct derogatory to his character and standing as a business and tending to prejudice him in his business are actionable, and words so uttered may be actionable per se. Broadway v. Cope, supra. However, the better reasoned decisions seem to hold that in order to be actionable without proof of special damage, the false words (1) must touch the plaintiff in his special trade or occupation, and (2) must contain an imputation necessarily hurtful in its effect on his business. That is to say, it is not enough that the words used tend to injure a person in his business. To be actgionable per se, they must be uttered of him in his business relation. James v. Haymes, 160 Va. 253, 168 S.E. 333; Herman v. Post, 98 CONN. 792, 120 A. 606; Canton Surgical & Dental Chair Co. v. McLain, 82 Wis. 93, 51 N.W. 1098; 53 C.J.S., Libel and Slander, § 43 ; 33 Am.Jur., Libel and Slander, Sec. 64. See also Annotations: 52 A.L.R. 1199 and 86 A.L.R. 442. Defamation of this class ordinarily includes charges made by one trader or merchant tending to degrade a...

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68 cases
  • In re Terry
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of North Carolina
    • March 14, 2017
    ...Co., No. 5:08-cv-90, 2009 WL 2590651, at *6 (W.D.N.C. Aug. 18, 2009); Moore, 341 F. Supp. 2d at 575; see also Badame v. Lampke, 242 N.C. 755, 757, 89 S.E.2d 466, 468 (1955) ("It is well settled that false words imputing to a merchant or business man conduct derogatory to his character and s......
  • Eli Research, Inc. v. United Communications Group, No. 1:02 CV 00787.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of North Carolina
    • April 6, 2004
    ...in connection with extrinsic, explanatory facts, they are only actionable as either libel or slander per quod. Badame v. Lampke, 242 N.C. 755, 756-57, 89 S.E.2d 466, 467-68 (1955). In this situation, plaintiff is obligated to plead and prove special damage. Id. at 757, 89 S.E.2d at Finally,......
  • Cannon v. Peck
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • June 8, 2022
    ...F.3d 280, 297 (4th Cir. 2008) (looking to common dictionaries to determine the meaning of "torture" and "torment"); Badame v. Lampke , 242 N.C. 755, 89 S.E.2d 466, 468 (1955) (looking to Webster's dictionary to determine the common meaning of "shady" and "shady deals"); Clark v. Brown , 99 ......
  • Spirax Sarco, Inc. v. SSI Eng'g, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of North Carolina
    • August 10, 2015
    ...and words so uttered may be actionable per se. " Boyce & Isley, 153 N.C.App. at 30, 568 S.E.2d at 898 (quoting Badame v. Lampke, 242 N.C. 755, 757, 89 S.E.2d 466, 468 (1955) ). North Carolina courts have explained that in order to constitute defamation per se with regard to a party's trade ......
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