Posted – June 23, 2015
Most people are familiar with the basics of what defamation is. In a nutshell, defamation is a statement made that causes damage to a person’s reputation. It is a statement that is made about a specific person to some kind of audience who understands who the statement is referring to. That statement then has to cause some kind of damage to the person it is about to be considered defamation.
There are two different types of defamation: libel and slander. Libel occurs when a person is defamed in written or published form. Slander occurs when the defamation is spoken or orally conveyed.
Public vs. Private Figure
There are different standards for proving defamation depending on whether the person being referred to is a public or private figure, and also, whether the issue being discussed is a matter of public concern. For example, a newspaper publishing statements about politician regarding his voting record would be treated with more scrutiny than statements made about a private figure regarding personal matters of the parties involved.
If the person who claims defamation is a public figure, there is a higher standard that must be proven in order for there to be defamation. Put simply, it must be proven that the person who made the defamatory statement knew they were making a false statement.
Requirements to Prove Defamation
As an example, we will use a situation where the person who was the subject of the defamation was a private figure, and the subject matter of the statement(s) was a private matter. In order for a plaintiff in this situation to prove defamation in court, certain basic requirements must be met:
1) the defamatory statement(s) must have been made to persons other than the plaintiff;
2) the people who heard or read the statement(s) must have understood it to be about the plaintiff;
3) because of the nature of the defamatory statement(s), the plaintiff suffered injury in their occupation, were exposed to hatred or shame, or had others discouraged from dealing with them;
4) the person who made the statement failed to use reasonable care to determine whether the statement was true or false
If a plaintiff can prove the above, along with the fact that the statement(s) caused them harm, they can present a case of defamation in court.
You will notice that in this example, that there is no requirement that the statement actually be false. If the plaintiff in a defamation case is a public figure, he will always have that the statement was actually false. In other words, the common expression of “truth is a defense to defamation.” This requirement also applies when it is a private figure and the statement(s) involve a matter of public concern. However, even though this requirement may not apply in the case of a private figure making a statement concerning a private matter, whether or not the statement was true or false is still an important concern, as defamation cases rest largely on false statements made that injury others.
If a plaintiff is able to prove that defamation occurred, they are entitled to damages to compensate them for harm to their professional life, harm to their reputation, and any shame or emotional distress they suffered. In addition, if the plaintiff can prove that the defamation was clearly done with intent to harm, they can recover punitive damages.
For a free consultation regarding your claim contact the Hariri Law Group at 619-363-2889. You can also visit us on the web at www.haririlaw.com. We look forward to speaking with you regarding your case.
*Disclaimer: Every case is fact specific. In order to properly assess your case please contact one of our experienced attorneys.