Lynch v Knight (1861) 11 ER 854; 9 HLC 577
Slander; special damage
Mr Lynch told Mr Knight that his wife was a liar, who took pleasure in causing disturbances, had been involved in immoral conduct before marriage and warned Mr Knight that his wife should not be introduced to society. Mrs Knight was consequently forced to move out of her husband’s house. Mrs Knight brought an action against Mr Lynch for slander (her husband was joined as claimant for conformity).
The Court had the task to determine whether a wife could maintain an action against a third person for words that caused her to leave her husband’s house and return to her father.
The Court held that a wife can bring an action the slanderous third person if the third person’s words resulted in her losing the consortium of her husband. However, she can only do so if the words were such that the loss of consortium naturally and reasonably followed from them. In this case, the alleged special damage – namely, Mrs Knight being forced out of her marital home – was not shown to be a natural and reasonable consequence of the slander. On the other hand, if the wife lost her maintenance by her husband as a result of the third person’s slander, that lost maintenance may be treated as a special damages warranting monetary compensation. However, such loss could not have been presumed, it should have been separately and distinctly claimed in order to become applicable.