What is Defamation?
“Defamation” is a general term for any statement that damages one’s reputation. When written, it is called “libel.” When spoken, it is called “slander.”
Defamation law attempts to ensure that those who suffer from another’s statement may have legal recourse, while still preserving our cherished freedom of speech.
Generally, a defamatory statement must be spoken or written, and:
1. Published, meaning that a third party (someone other than who made the statement or who the statement was about) heard or saw the statement;
2. False – (Opinion statements are almost never considered defamatory, because they are hard to prove false);
3. Injurious – There must be a showing of damage to reputation, except in cases of defamation per se. Statements that are defamatory per se do not require a showing of damages, as it is understood that the statements is so damaging by its very nature that damages are presumed. Some statements that would be considered defamatory per se include those relating to a plaintiff’s business or profession, a statement that a plaintiff has committed a morally repugnant crime, and even statements relating to a plaintiff having a sexually transmitted disease. Of course, these statements must be false.
4. Unprivileged – In certain circumstances, statements cannot be considered defamatory, even if false. For example, statements made in court are considered privileged in order to encourage testimony (the fear of defamation liability might discourage testimony).
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Additionally, celebrities and public figures who are defamed have to prove “actual malice” in addition to the above factors. However, most of us are not celebrities or public figures, and can suffer much more greatly from defamatory statements. If you believe that a statement or writing made about you may be damaging to your reputation, contact the Kohan Law Group so it can be dealt with immediately.