The dubious distinction between libel per se and libel per quod may be non-existent in Washington following a recent supreme court decision. Plaintiff was divorced from his former wife, Hazel, on February 3, 1960. In September 1960, he married his present wife. Thereafter plaintiff instituted a suit to modify the divorce decree. Defendant newspaper, in reporting this suit, printed the following statement: "Divorce Granted-Hazel M. Pitts from Phillip Pitts." Plaintiff sued defendant for libel, alleging that considering extrinsic facts the publication was libelous per se; it gave the impression that plaintiff's second marriage was illegal and that he was a bigamist. Defendant contended that the publication was not libelous per se and that plaintiff could not recover on the theory of a libel per quod since special damages had not been pleaded. On appeal from a judgment for plaintiff in the court below, held: False statements published in a newspaper concerning betrothals, marriages, births, divorces, and custody of children may be shown to be libelous by proof of extrinsic circumstances and may thus become actionable without proof of special damages. Pitts v. Spokane Chronicle Co., 63 Wn.2d 763, 388 P.2d 976 (1963).
Washington Case Law,
Torts—Admissibility of Extrinsic Evidence as Proof of Libel Per Se,
40 Wash. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/wlr/vol40/iss2/20