Libel, Slander and Defamation
Libel, Slander and Defamation
Defamation Law is the legal discipline associated with an intentional or reckless statement that is false and injures another person’s reputation. More specifically, Defamation is the all encompassing term used for the statement that actually hurts someone’s reputation. Written defamation is called “libel,” while spoken defamation is called “slander.” Attorneys frequently receive inquiries about defamation actions from people who are in conflicts with their neighbors or other members of their communities, and have become the subjects of what amounts to vicious lies. Defamation is not a crime per-se, but is considered a “tort” (civil wrong) in a court of law. However, in some circumstances, slander or libel can raise to the level of criminal harassment or other disorderly persons violations.
Elements of Defamation:
Generally speaking, defamation is all about the issuance of a false statement about another person, which causes that person to suffer some kind of harm. The harm could be physical, but in most cases its not. In essence Defamation law tries to balance two opposing interests: On the one hand, people should not ruin other’s lives by telling false and misleading lies about them; but on the other hand, people should be able to speak freely without fear of litigation or reprisal over every disagreement, or insult that is made. In a free society, political and social disagreement is crucial, and not everyone is required to share the same opinions or beliefs.
Typically, the elements of a cause of action for Defamation include:
A false and defamatory statement concerning another;
· The publication of the statement to a third party (somebody other than the person defamed) that was not consented to;
· If the defamatory matter is of public concern, fault amounting at least to negligence on the part of the publisher; and
· Actual damage to the plaintiff. (loss of reputation, loss of job, etc.)
In the context of defamation law, a statement is deemed “published” when it is made to a third party. It’s important to note, that the third party cannot be the actual person being defamed. In addition, the term does not mean that the statement has to be printed in some kind of media. All that is required is that the statement be told to a third person orally, or through some kind of written media. Damages are typically to the reputation of the plaintiff, but depending upon the laws of the jurisdiction it may be enough to establish mental anguish.
While most defamation actions have their roots embedded in common law, today most jurisdictions have enacted statutes which modify the common law. These jurisdictions change many of the elements for the cause of action, and also limit when an action may be filed, and even go so far as modifying the defenses to an action for defamation.
Defenses to Defamation:
· Truth – an absolute defense to a defamation action.
· Privileged – certain privileges allow one to be absolved from a defamation action.
· Public Figures – require a greater threshold in order to be considered defamed.
· Lack of Intent – without intent, one lacks the knowledge and willful conduct
required to be liable for defamation.
Attorneys specializing in Defamation actions:
Attorneys specializing in Defamation law must have great insight and knowledge in areas such as Tort Law, Personal Injury Law, Law of Negligence and many other legal areas that govern the existing legal obligations people owe each other and to society at large. Attorneys specializing in Defamation law must be able understand and comprehend a system of complex situations, cause of actions and defenses which seek to regulate peoples conduct and behavior towards one another.
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