Henderson v. Henderson

Rhode Island Superior Court

1996 WL 936966 (R.I. Super 1996)

A defendant is liable for defamation if he publishes an unprivileged, false, and defamatory statement concerning the plaintiff in at least a negligent manner that results in damages to the plaintiff and may be subjected to punitive damages if the defendant made the statements with malice or wickedness requiring the imposition of punishment.

Relevant Facts

Susan Henderson (the plaintiff) filed suit for defamation against her ex-husband, Brian Henderson (the defendant) after he mailed a stream of letters to the plaintiff that referred to her as a “wacko” and a “whore” on the envelope. For nearly three years, the defendant also sent similar letters to the plaintiff’s father, sister, and the parties’ grown daughter. Additionally, the defendant claimed the plaintiff was mentally unstable.

At trial, the plaintiff produced copies of the letters and witnesses who corroborated her claims as well as evidence of checks initialized by the defendant with obscene connotations on them. Additionally, the plaintiff motioned for an order permitting discovery on the issue of punitive damages. In response, the defendant filed a motion to strike the claim for punitive damages. After a hearing, the court ruled on both motions.

Issue

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Holding & Reasoning

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Concurrence

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Dissent

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Last updated:

December 22, 2020

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Procedural History

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Citations

1996 WL 936966 (R.I. Super 1996)