Arizona Common Law

  1. Defamation

    1. Introduction

      If a sexual photo or video is published online, it may be accompanied by defamatory statements about the victim (written statement accompanying photo, or oral and written statements accompanying video). To be “defamatory,” a statement must be false and bring the defamed person into disrepute, contempt, or ridicule, or impeach her honesty, integrity, virtue, or reputation. Godbehere v. Phoenix Newspapers, Inc., 162 Ariz. 335, 341 (Ariz. 1989).

    2. Elements

      Defamation requires: (1) a false statement concerning the plaintiff; (2) that was defamatory; (3) that was published to a third party; (4) the requisite fault on the part of the defendant; and (5) the plaintiff was damaged because of the statement.1

    3. Cases

      1. Ilitzky v. Goodman, 57 Ariz. 216 (Ariz. 1941)
        • Procedural Posture: Plaintiff sued the defendant and another for libel. The court dismissed the complaint, denied leave to amend, and dismissed the action. Plaintiff appealed. The question before the supreme court was whether the court erred in refusing leave to file the amended complaint and whether the amended complaint presented to the court did state a good cause of action.
        • Law: Libel
        • Facts: Plaintiff was engaged in the furniture business. His amended complaint alleged that defendants wrote letters to one of plaintiff’s regular customers stating that plaintiff had falsely and wrongfully forged, issued and sold to United Trading Stores of Phoenix and to the defendants a conditional sales contract in the amount of $90 covering goods purchased from plaintiff by regular customer, when in fact regular customer had never executed any conditional sales contract, and plaintiff had never issued nor sold such a contract to anyone. The amended complaint further alleged that defendants’ sending of such letters was part of a course of conduct that defendants maliciously pursued to injure and impeach the reputation of plaintiff, and that the facts and meaning of the letters were known by defendants at the time to be false.
        • Outcome: The supreme court held that the amended complaint sufficiently stated a claim for libel.
        • Special Notes: Libel per se are written communications which “on their face and without the aid of any extrinsic matter” tend to “bring any person into disrepute, contempt or ridicule” or “impeach the honesty, integrity, virtue or reputation.” Ilitzky v. Goodman, 57 Ariz. 216, 220‑21 (Ariz. 1941). In contrast, libel per quod consists of written communications which “on their face do not fall within the definition [of defamation] but which by reason of special extraneous circumstances actually do.” Id. at 221.
    1. Morris v. Warner, 160 Ariz. 55, 62 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1988). 

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  2. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (“IIED”)

    1. Introduction

      The victim of the nonconsensual online publication of intimate photographs or videos may sue under the common law tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress or outrage in situations where the material’s publication caused the victim to suffer severe emotional distress.

    2. Elements

      The tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress requires: (1) the conduct of the defendant must be extreme and outrageous; (2) the defendant must either intend to cause emotional distress or recklessly disregard the near certainty that such distress will result from his conduct; and (3) severe emotional distress must indeed occur as a result of defendant’s conduct.1

    3. Cases

      1. Ford v. Revlon, Inc., 734 P.2d 580 (1987)
        • Procedural Posture: Employee brought action against manager of corporation and corporation for assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The superior court entered judgment against manager for assault and battery, but not several other claims, including for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
        • Law: IIED
        • Facts: Plaintiff worked for the purchasing department of Revlon, Inc. Her supervisor repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances toward her. Plaintiff began a series of meetings with various members of Revlon management to report her complaints. The company did not take action in response to plaintiff’s complaints and did not terminate the supervisor until after significant delay. During the time of the harassment, Plaintiff developed high blood pressure, a nervous tic in her left eye, chest pains, rapid breathing, and other symptoms of emotional stress. She felt weak, dizzy, and generally fatigued. She also attempted to commit suicide.
        • Outcome: The supreme court held that the corporation's failure to take appropriate action in response to the employee's complaint of sexual harassment by her manager constituted the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress.
        • Special note: “Intentional infliction of emotional distress is often based upon claims of sexual harassment.” Id. at 585.
    4. Practice Pointers

      There are many different types of emotional harms that can lead to money damages in a lawsuit, and it is important to document and provide evidence of any such harms.

    1. Johnson v. McDonald, 3 P.3d 1075 (1995). 

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