Missouri cases have applied constitutional fault principles to statements made by non-media defendants, as well as those made by media defendants. Ramacciotti v. Zinn, 550 S.W.2d 217, 224 (Mo. Ct. App. 1987); McQuoid v. Springfield Newspapers, Inc., 502 F. Supp 1050, 1054 n.3 (W.D. Mo. 1980).
See the general page on actual malice and negligence for details on the standards and terminology mentioned in this subsection.
Private Figure Standard
In Missouri, a private figure must show libelous statements were published by a defendant "at fault." The Missouri Supreme Court has interpreted the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., as stating that the requisite degree of fault in a private figure defamation case is negligence. Overcast v. Billings Mut. Ins. Co., 11 S.W. 3d 62, 70 (Mo. 2000) (en banc).
In a ruling rejecting the distinction between defamation per se and per quod (see above), the Missouri Supreme Court seems to have abandoned the doctrine of presumed damages. Nazeri v. Misssouri Valley College, 860 S.W.2d 303, 313 (Mo. 1993) (en banc). "By allowing presumed damages for certain words but precluding actual damages for other words without the additional proof of special damages, we believe this rule of the past creates unjustifiable inequities for plaintiffs and defendants alike. We hold that in defamation cases the old rules of per se and per quod do not apply and plaintiff need only to plead and prove the unified defamation elements set out in MAI [i.e., the "Missouri Approved Instructions," the standard jury instructions used in Missouri courts] 23.01(1) and 23.01(2)." Nazeri at 313. See also Kenney v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 100 S.W.3d 809, 814 (Mo. 2003); Bauer v. Ribaudo, 975 S.W.2d 180, 182-83 (Mo. Ct. App. 1997).