TORT LIABILITY FOR THREATENING OR INSULTING WORDS
AbstractThis article contrasts the notion of harm caused by speaking words that are threatening or injurious to another’s dignity, with that of harm caused by speaking false words. The author examines the question of why threatening or injurious words fail to attract liability, while false words attract liability in three situations: 1) where another relies on them, 2) where they cause shock or 3) in the case of defamation. In search of the distinguishing characteristics between these categories, he first considers words threatening imminent physical violence, focusing on assault and its limits. Second, he considers words that are harmful to another’s dignity. He proposes, as possible justifications for imposing liability for harmful words, keeping the public peace and protecting human dignity, and prefers the first over the second.
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