Skip to content

ACTIONABLE

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]