Allegations proven to be untrue and damaging to another person’s reputation can constitute defamation. If the false statement is seen, that would fall under libel, but when heard or spoken, it is considered a defamatory statement. This article will help you understand the elements of defamation: what you need to know before you can file a defamation lawsuit and ways to defend yourself from falsehood.
Again, the tort of defamation includes both libel (statements that are written) and slander (statements that are spoken). If someone defames your name by using derogatory language, you have every right to file a lawsuit but you must prove certain factors to have a strong case. Consult with a civil litigation attorney first before filing any lawsuit to make sure that you are suing the other person for the correct kind of offense.
Proving Personal or Business Defamation
Defamation lawsuits are different from false light lawsuits where the defendant is charged not for falsely stating a claim but for giving an offensive or misleading statement.
In civil litigation for personal defamation or business-related defamation cases, consumer protection attorneys will advise plaintiffs to prepare a proof of the following four elements:
- An untrue statement, either a libelous or slandering remark, has been made and is purporting to be the fact.
- Publication or communication of the statement reached a third person.
- Fault pointing to at least negligence. If the statement was in the form of written text or other defamatory material, the publishing company or publisher has been reckless in publishing it.
- Actual damages or harm to another person (defamed reputation or other special damages)
If false accusations have been expressed in the absence of another party, you may not have a case for a defamation claim. This means that having sufficient documentary support and witnesses will help build your case and ensure that the defendant will be deemed guilty of making a defamatory remark.
However, do note that some states may have other anti-defamation statutes. Civil courts may have different interpretations of defamation laws which is why some statements may be contested and examined carefully it if has a defamatory connotation.
Defining Defamatory Statements
When there is a defamation claim, one of the information considered is whether or not the defendant expresses or published the remark intentionally. Any communication which harms one’s reputation or the integrity of businesses can be considered a defamatory statement. Below are some examples:
- Suggesting or outright accusing someone of committing a serious crime or felony
- Using words that damage the character and integrity of the plaintiff
- Statements that impact business profits or financial well-being due to damaged reputation
- Suggesting a physical or mental disability which leads others to avoid the plaintiff
Since multiple individuals may have different interpretations of what is defamatory, the court will look for evidence that the reputation of the accuser was affected by how the community sees him or her.
But what if the defamation claim was published in the opinion section of a newspaper or public document? If the court finds that the main basis for the statement of opinion hinges on a defamatory fact, then the writing can be considered slanderous.
Proving Truth In A Defamation Case
If you are the one facing the defamation lawsuit, the only way for the claim to be dismissed is through an “absolute defense”. This means that you only expressed something factual, even if it was an ugly truth, and you have the evidence to support the statement’s truthfulness.
As soon as any statement has been proven factual based on pieces of evidence, the court will immediately move to close the defamation lawsuit.
Publishing Defamatory Information
The allegation or defamation act should have been published in writing or expressed in the presence of another person before it can constitute a slander or libel case. Published forms include books, magazines, newspapers, social media posts, or even live streams. As long as the intended audience for the statements understood its meaning, the communication is considered “published”. Moreover, it can constitute defamation even if there was a reckless disregard for the material or the publisher has been proven negligent.
The meaning of the statement based on its accompanying circumstance will also be examined by the civil court. This just means that two statements with similar words could mean different things depending on when, where, and how it was expressed.
When referencing the plaintiff, it is not a necessary condition for the name to be mentioned or written as long as there is a reasonable belief that the communication was intended to target his or her reputation. For example, if the defendant published a story and used fictitious characters that hint at who the plaintiff was, if actual malice is found, this can still be a defamation case.
Defending Yourself From Defamation and Libel
If you’ve just been sued, or is currently facing a libel lawsuit or a lawsuit against defamation, the best and widely accepted complete defense for a libel and slander charge is to prove that the statement is the truth. This is considered as “absolute privilege”. You can prove truthfulness through witness statements in judicial proceedings.
Another defense you can use is “qualified privilege”. A statement that would normally be labeled as defamatory will not be considered as such because of special circumstances. You can ask your defamation lawyer for specific cases where this applies.
If you want to learn more about the specific circumstances to help you decide whether or not to sue, Dodds Law Firm can help you. If you need to learn more about defamation law, libel law, or just want to defend yourself from a defamation claim, slander, and libel in Arizona, contact one of our consumer protection attorneys from Dodds Law Firm today.