At common law, the tort of defamation existed to redress and compensate individuals who suffered serious harm to their reputations due to the careless or malicious communications of others. A cause of action for defamation exists today to protect one's reputation from unjustified invasion of wrongful hurt. Defamatory statements are considered an egregious and intolerable wrong because they injure an individual's reputation, considered to be invaluable. For defamatory words to be actionable, the words must refer to an ascertained or ascertainable individual, and that individual must be the plaintiff. No basis for a defamation action exists unless there is a publication of the defamatory matter to a person or persons other than the plaintiff. In order to ascertain whether the plaintiff can prove sufficient injury to bring a defamation claim, the issues of slander and libel per se and per quod must be analyzed. (Douglas S. MacGregor & Katie Everlove-Stone, Elements of Civil Causes of Action in NC §16 (North Carolina Bar Association Foundation, 3rd ed. 2019)).
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