Appeal from Circuit Court, Jefferson County. John H. Copenhaver, Judge.
Stanley E. Clark, Redmond, argued the cause and filed a brief for appellant.
R. L. Marceau, Bend, argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were McKay, Panner, Johnson, Marceau & Karnopp, Bend.
This is an action for damages caused by alleged slander. The trial court sustained defendant's demurrer to plaintiff's complaint and plaintiff appeals.
Defendant urged as one ground for her demurrer that the complaint did not state a cause of action because no special damages were alleged. Plaintiff counters that he alleged slander per se and, therefore, no allegation of special damages is necessary. The issue is whether plaintiff alleged a cause of action for slander per se.
The complaint alleged that the plaintiff was the president of a concern which operates an airport under a lease from the City of Madras; that at a meeting of the Airport Commission, which represents the city in regard to plaintiff's lease, the defendant stated to the commission:
"What kind of protection can you give us from this terrible, mean, demented old man and what kind of protection do we have, * * * he might come out and chop our airplanes up with an axe."
Words actionable per se include words "falsely spoken of a party which prejudice such party in his or her profession or trade." Barnett v. Phelps, 97 Or 242, 245, 191 P 502, 11 ALR 663 (1920). Such words can be interpreted to mean that the defendant stated
that the plaintiff was insane and might damage airplanes at the airport. Such words could be found by the trier of fact to prejudice the plaintiff in his business of operating an airport.
"A, falsely and without a privilege, says to B that C, a merchant, is insane. A is liable to C." 3 Restatement 180, Torts, § 573, Illustration 6. Accord, Prosser, Torts, 758 (4th ed 1971).
The other ground for the demurrer was that the statement was absolutely privileged. The trial court sustained the demurrer because, "[i]t is the court's view that the Airport ...