Defamation is a factual statement that harms a person’s reputation or business. In order to be considered defamation, the statement must be able to be proven false in a court of law, and must also have caused some form of monetary loss or damage to the person in question. Opinions are not considered to be defamation, nor are any statements that are in fact true. Defamation can be broken down into two different categories, libel and slander. Libel is any statement that has been made a public record. This can include newspaper articles, public statements, and radio and TV broadcasts. Slander is a spoken statement that causes harm to the person it refers to. In both cases, the statement must have been given to a third party, and not only to the person in question.
Libel and Slander
Types of Slander
There are two different types of slander. The first is known as ‘slander per se’ and relates to personal statements made about a person’s character or reputation. This can include statements that imply the person has committed a crime, has a contagious disease, is adulterous, or conducts their business in a less than reputable manner. For this type of slander the victim does not have to prove any monetary loss. The other type of slander is known as ‘slander per quod’ and is concerned with statements that have directly led to financial loss.
The Complexities of Libel
There are certain defenses to a libel lawsuit that will protect the accused. If the statement made is true it is not considered libel, nor are any comments made in a courtroom or parliamentary setting. This is known as ‘absolute privilege’, and is closely related to ‘qualified privilege’ which protects those who make statements without malicious intent and for honest reasons. The rules are slightly different regarding celebrities or public figures. They will need to prove that a statement is not only false, but that the speaker made it with full knowledge of its inaccuracy and with malicious intent. For more information, check out Riverside personal injury lawyer Nadrich & Cohen, LLP.
What to Do If You Believe You Have Been a Victim of Defamation
Before accusing someone of defamation, it is important to ensure that the statement in question fulfills the aforementioned criteria. If the remarks made about you were false, hurtful, damaging to your reputation, caused financial loss, and were made in public, you may have grounds to sue for defamation. It must also be a statement of fact and not simply a personal opinion. If a person says you are “the worst person they have ever done business with” this is an opinion and is impossible to disprove in court. However, if they say that you are a “dishonest and unreliable businessman” this is presented as a fact and is grounds for defamation, assuming the statement can be proven false in a court of law.
Defamation lawsuits are a complicated process in the US due to a person’s right to free speech under the First Amendment. The court will need to balance the two concepts of defamation and free speech in order to determine if an accusation is warranted. Each state has its own laws, but the majority of defamation cases will be heard at either district or county court. Occasionally the Supreme Court will hear a defamation case, but only if it is a particularly high-profile case or previous appeals from the plaintiff have been rejected from district and county courts. Defamation is a difficult subject, but many law firms have begun specializing in this field. If you have been a victim of defamation of character, it is important to speak with a legal professional as soon as possible who can advise you about whether or not you have a claim.