Defamation is a very common act in the United States, so it isn’t uncommon for attorneys to receive tons of inquiries about the matter. It is almost regular that neighbors fight and clash, then begin to spread vicious lies about that individual or family; this is called defamation of character. The same act can also be referred to as libel or slander.
Definitions of Libel, Slander and Defamation
Defamation is the act of falsely stating something about someone else in order to cause that individual harm. With slander, it involves an individual or group giving defamatory statements without fixed representation; meaning it is done in an oral representation. Then with libel, the defamatory statements are in printed or have a fixed medium like a newspaper or magazine. When it comes to defamatory statements this could be:
- False and defamatory statements about another individual
- Publishing unprivileged to a third party – or someone other than the person that is being defamed.
- The defamatory statements are made public, which would result in the publisher being at fault for the negligence.
- Damage done to the plaintiff.
When it comes to the term published, it doesn’t have to necessarily mean printed. The term damaged pertains to the reputation of the individual being defamed; at times it can cause mental anguish. Some cases that may cause damage to the plaintiff include:
- Attacking an individual’s professional character or standing
- Alleging an unmarried individual is unchaste
- Alleging that an individual is carrying an STD
- Alleging that an individual has committed a crime or immoral act.
Common law does have actions for defamation, but there have been some jurisdictions that have passed statutes that modify this common law. Elements of the cause of action are able to be changed or modified depending on the case of defamation that is presented; this even includes limiting when the action can be filed. Sometimes the defendant is required to be given the option to make amends before non-economic damages can be charged by the plaintiff.
Defenses Used by Those Accused of Defamation
The most used defense action is called “truth”; this is an absolute defense against defamation. Another defense that can be used is called “privilege”. Some examples of this include, statements being made by witnesses giving a testimony in court, arguments being made by lawyers within the court, legislators on the floor of legislator making statements or statements made by judges while sitting on the bench – these are known to be privileged and cannot be supported for a cause of action for a defamation case even if the case is outrageous and false.
Some of the other defenses include:
- Opinion – When an individual states an opinion, not a fact, the statement cannot be supported in the cause of action for the defamation.
- Fair comment on a matter of interest – Similar to the opinion defense, but this time it involves a corruption scandal and stating your opinion or whether the allegations are true or not.
Meta Description: Libel, Defamation and slander all have to do with saying and/or publishing false information about an individual or group that damages their reputation within the workplace or community. All three have actions and defenses that can be used in the court.
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