Virginia: Special Cases - a Lawyer’s Defamation
On February 28, 2013, the Virginia Supreme Court issued Tharpe v. Saunders, No. 120985, an appeal from the Circuit Court of Halifax County. In that special case, the Court held that the allegedly false attribution of a statement constituted defamation regardless whether the statement was true. Id. at *1.
Tharpe ruled that the false attribution itself was “false statement of fact, not any expression of opinion, that subjected him to potential liability.” Id. at *8. Tharpe explained that false attribution, or “fabricated quotations,” are “actionable as defamation regardless of the truth or falsity of the substance of the quotation when it injures the plaintiff’s reputation,” id. at *9, i.e., if believed by the hearer as coming from the alleged maker, by its very nature reflects negatively. Id.