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Tort/Negligence – Defamation – Damages – ‘Racist’

By: S.C. Lawyers Weekly staff//June 2, 2023

Tort/Negligence – Defamation – Damages – ‘Racist’

By: S.C. Lawyers Weekly staff//June 2, 2023

Because the allegedly libelous statement in this case involved an issue of public controversy or concern (a controversial post-game ritual performed by members of a high school football team) and was published by a media defendant, the common law presumption of general damages did not apply, and it was incumbent on petitioners to show actual injury attributable to respondent’s publications. The best that can be said of petitioners’ evidence is that their damages are speculative and therefore insufficient as a matter of law.

On this basis alone, we affirm the Court of Appeals’ decision upholding summary judgment for respondent.

However, we reject any suggestion that calling someone a racist can never be defamatory.

Garrard v. Charleston County School District (Lawyers Weekly No. 010-028-23, 4 pp.) (John Kittredge, J.) Appealed from Charleston County Circuit Court (Jean Hoefer Toal, J.) On writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals. John Parker, John Elliott Parker Jr. and William Franklin Barnes for petitioners; Wallace Lightsey and Mellah Bowers Jefferson for respondent. South Carolina Supreme Court

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