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The Language of Defamation Cases$
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Roger W. Shuy

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195391329

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195391329.001.0001

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A Policyholder Sues Her Insurance Company

A Policyholder Sues Her Insurance Company

(p.191) 11 A Policyholder Sues Her Insurance Company
The Language of Defamation Cases

Roger W. Shuy (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

A man applied for additional life insurance but was rejected by his insurer. Shortly afterward he died and his widow sued the company, which claimed that the insurer failed to disclose that her husband had tested positive for HIV as and that if her husband had known he had this medical condition, he could have taken steps that would lead to a longer life. After the District Court and the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the insurer, the widow then consulted her Congressman and eventually sued the insurer again, this time claiming that the insurer's correspondence had publicly portrayed her and her late husband as “absurdly litigious” and “sexually promiscuous.” At that time a national TV program was preparing a program about this issue when the insurer published a letter telling her that she “must stop” making false and defamatory statement about the company. The widow believed that this letter threatened her and that the company intended to bring a lawsuit against her. The linguistic analysis of the topics showed that its speech acts included accusations and threats rather than advice.

Keywords:   accusation, speech acts, threats, advice, opinion

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