Defamation, slander, and libel are often used interchangeably. Defamation is an umbrella term for a false, damaging statement about an individual. There are a few things that must be present in order for the statement to be considered defamation.
A defamatory statement must be presented as a fact. Opinions can’t be defamatory, because they can’t be proven.
Defamatory statements are false by nature. If the statement is true, even if it is unflattering, it is not defamatory. To consider a statement defamatory, you must be able to prove that it is untrue.
For a statement to be considered defamatory, it must be published. This doesn’t mean that it must be written on paper, but it means that the statement can’t only occur between the one saying it and the one it is said about. A statement made to a 3rd-party is considered a published statement.
To consider a statement defamatory, malicious intent must be proven. This means that the person must have made the statement either knowing that it was untrue or having reasonable doubt that it was true.
Result in Harm
To successfully pursue a defamation of character case, the individual must prove that the statement resulted in harm. Some statements are automatically assumed to have resulted in harm, such as wrongfully accusing someone of committing a crime. Damage is anything that may have resulted in job loss or damage to the individual’s reputation.
Libel or Slander
Libel and slander are two different kinds of defamation. Libel occurs when the statement is written. Slander occurs when the statement is made orally. Most courts view libel as more damaging, because it can be reread multiple times.
Public and Private
Public figures must prove a higher level of defamation than private citizens. They must prove that there is malicious intent behind the statement. Some situations are also privileged, which means that the people can’t be sued for defamation. These situations are mainly political or court related.
Defamation is considered a civil charge, not a criminal charge. This means that an individual is required to sue the offender through a civil court. Defamation is a complex process and can be complicated to prove. If you think you have been a victim of defamation, contact us at LeBaron & Jensen today!