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Foulger v Newcomb [1867] LR 2 Ex 327

Slander; words in respect of business; special damage

(248 words)

Facts

The claimant was, amongst other things, a warrener and gamekeeper and he was regularly employed as such by neighbouring land occupiers. These neighbouring occupiers often engaged in fox hunting and were against killing or destroying foxes in their neighbourhood by other means. The claimant understood that he would not be employed by the occupiers if he killed foxes, or, if already employed, he would be in breach of his duties by doing so. The defendant falsely alleged that the claimant trapped three foxes, thereby breaching his employment terms. As a result, the claimant’s reputation was severely damaged and the occupiers would no longer employ him as warrener or gamekeeper.

Issue

The defendant argued that his words were not actionable as they imputed a breach of contract to the claimant. Thus, special damage was too remote and could not have naturally resulted from the words. The claimant, on the other hand, said that defendant’s words imputed to him misconduct in his business, and as such, were in themselves defamatory, especially having regard to the defendant’s knowledge of his circumstances.

Held

The Court agreed with the claimant. It held that words imputing misconduct in his business to a man were actionable. As the defendant knew of the claimant’s position as gamekeeper and also knew of the rule that gamekeepers should not kill foxes, he falsely and maliciously said that the claimant was involved in fox-killing. Slander would thus have been committed even in the absence of a special damage.


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