Slander of Title

A slander of title claim can be brought against any one who falsely and maliciously defames the property either real or personal, of another, and thereby causes him some special pecuniary damage or loss. To prevail on a slander of title claim, the claimant must prove (1) there was a publication of a slanderous statement disparaging claimant’s title; (2) the statement was false; (3) the statement was made with malice or made with reckless disregard of its falsity; and (4) the statement caused actual or special damages.

In terms of a claim for slander of title, a person acts with malice when they act with reckless or wanton disregard of the rights of others. A person does not need to act out of personal hatred to act with malice in this context. As a general rule, wrongfully recording an unfounded claim to the property of another constitutes slander of title.

Source: Cupside Properties, Ltd. v. Earl Mechanical Services, Inc., 53 N.E.3d 818 (Oh. App. 2015)

To establish slander of title, a plaintiff must show: (1) a publication, (2) which is without privilege or justification, (3) which is false, and (4) which causes direct and immediate pecuniary loss.

Source: Klem v. Access Ins. Co., 17 Cal.App.5th 595 (2017)

The term “slander of title” is defined as a false and malicious statement, oral or written, made in disparagement of a person’s title to real or personal property, causing him injury. Generally, an action under slander of title may only be maintained by one who possesses an estate or interest in the affected property.  The tort of slander of title is almost identical to the tort of product disparagement, the only difference being that the former tort involves aspersing the quality of one’s title to property and the latter tort involves aspersing the quality of one’s property.

Slander of title is grounded in the tort of injurious falsehood. In this light, the first comment of section 624 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts explains:

The particular form of injurious falsehood that involves disparagement of the property in land, chattels, or intangible things, is commonly called “slander of title.” The earliest cases in which it arose involved oral aspersions cast upon the plaintiff’s ownership of land, as a result of which he was prevented from selling or leasing it; and the decisions went upon an analogy to the kind of oral defamation of the person that is actionable only upon proof of special harm. (See § 569). The extension of the liability to other kinds of injurious falsehood has left the terms “slander of title,” and “disparagement,” merely as special names given to this particular form of the tort.

Source: Pond Place Partners v. Poole, 351 S.C. 1 (2002)

Slander of Title vs. Defamation

The gravamen of an action for “disparagement of title,” also known as “slander of title,” differs from that of an action for personal defamation. Disparagement of title occurs when a person, without a privilege to do so, publishes a false statement that disparages title to property and causes pecuniary loss. The elements of the tort are (1) publication, (2) absence of justification, (3) falsity and (4) direct pecuniary loss.  What makes conduct actionable is not whether a defendant succeeds in casting a legal cloud on plaintiff’s title, but whether the defendant could reasonably foresee that the false publication might determine the conduct of a third person buyer or lessee. The thrust of the tort of disparagement or slander of title is protection from injury to the salability of property. This differs, in character and in kind, from the right protected by coverage for “personal injury” defined in the Charter Oak policy as “publication or utterance of a libel or slander or other defamatory or disparaging material.

Defamation, by contrast, injures a person’s reputation. Rather than interfering with a property right, economic relations, or the sale of goods, defamation invades the interest in personal or professional reputation and good name. A defamation claim vindicates personal interests, and is a personal injury. The distinction between the property or economic interest at stake in a slander or disparagement of title cause of action, and the personal interest in reputation at stake in a defamation cause of action, recurs in several other legal contexts.

Source: Truck Ins. Exchange v. Bennett, 53 Cal.App.4th 75 (1997)

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