actionable,adj. Furnishing the legal ground for a lawsuit or other legal action <intentional
interference with contractual relations is an actionable tort>.
actionable per quod (p<<schwa>>r kwod). (Of potentially defamatory words) not inherently
defamatory and therefore requiring allegation and proof of special damages. • For example, if the
defendant says, “The plaintiff is crazy,” the utterance is actionable per quod. That is, the plaintiff
must prove, in addition to the utterance, that the defendant intended the words to mean that the
plaintiff was mentally impaired or deficient in business or professional capacity, and that these
words caused the plaintiff to suffer special damages. See PER QUOD.
actionable per se (p<<schwa>>r say). (Of defamatory words) legally and conclusively
presumed defamatory. • In the law of defamation, words actionable per se are inherently libelous
or slanderous. For example, if a person says of a fiduciary, “That person embezzles client funds,”
the utterance is actionable per se. The plaintiff does not have to allege or prove special damages.
See PER SE.
“The terminology ‘actionable per se’ has proven treacherous, in that it has invited confusion
with another doctrine which obtains in defamation cases. This is the doctrine which distinguishes
between words (such as, ‘You are a thief’) which convey a defamatory meaning on their face, and,
on the other hand, words of veiled detraction whose offense is apparent only when the context and
circumstances are revealed. The former are sometimes said to be defamatory ‘per se’ or slanderous
‘per se’ or libelous ‘per se,’ whereas the latter, to be properly pleaded, must have an accompanying
‘innuendo’ or explanation. Clearly this requirement has no relationship to the other rule, that
certain slanders are and others are not actionable without a showing of special damage, but the use
of the phrase ‘per se’ in both connections has produced confusion, and we find many American
courts adopting the practice of requiring, in cases where the defamation, whether slander or libel,
must be explained by an ‘innuendo’ to reveal its defamatory meaning, that special damages be also
pleaded.” Charles T. McCormick, Handbook on the Law of Damages § 113, at 417 (1935). [Blacks Law 8th]