Question: What do you need to show to prove “malice” in the State of Indiana?
Answer: The ordinary definition of malice as “an evil intent or motive arising from spite or ill will.” There a few times in civil cases when the plaintiff is required to prove malice. Both a public figure and a private individual bringing a defamation action over a matter of public or general concern must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant made the alleged defamatory statement with actual malice. The actual malice element required by the United States Supreme Court and our state courts is not to be confused with the ordinary definition of “malice” as “an evil intent or motive” arising from spite or ill will. Actual malice, as an element of the tort of defamation, exists when the defendant publishes a defamatory statement “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.” Also, defendant’s conduct supporting an award of punitive damages to a plaintiff must be of a more reprehensible character, e.g., malice, gross fraud, oppressive conduct, or heedless disregard of the consequences. The court concluded that no decision in Indiana had yet gone so far as to justify imposition of punitive damages solely on the basis of a concept of heedless disregard of the consequences. Something more than that state of mind is necessary. Rather the state of mind is more like actual malice or a wantonness from which the law could imply malice.