Everyone is given freedom of speech; however, this freedom should be balanced with another person’s right to secure and protect their reputation and good name. It is hard to identify which remarks and comments are even appropriate and which statements will violate the defamation law.
The terms libel, slander, and defamation fall into the same category of law which is called the “defamation law”. Libel is written defamation, and slander is spoken defamation. In this article, we’ll explore the legal definition and overview of defamation claims and torts. Here are some of the questions that you might have in mind when you face a defamation case:
- What is Defamation?
- What are the Elements of a Defamation Lawsuit?
- How Do You Define Cyber Defamation?
- What are the Higher Burdens for Defamation?
- What is Privilege Defense?
- How Important is a Civil Litigation Attorney?
What is Defamation?
Defamation refers to a false statement presented as a fact that causes damage to a person’s reputation. It is considered to be a tort or a civil wrong. While defamation is not a criminal act, it is serious and can harm a person’s emotional, physical, and financial well-being. The tort of defamation, also known as defamation of character, happens when something untrue, hurtful, and damaging is presented as a fact to someone else. If your reputation has been damaged by the false statements, you have the right to file a defamation lawsuit against the other party. A crucial part of a defamation case is that the person makes a false statement with a certain kind of intent.
There are two types of defamatory statements – libel and slander. A defamatory statement that is published in writing, is referred to as “libel”. In contrast, an untrue defamatory statement that is spoken is called “slander”. A credible Surprise Arizona civil litigation attorney can help you understand the differences between libel and slander, and how to handle them.
Defamation is an area of law that protects your reputation by allowing recourse if false statements are made about you. This type of civil case is an effective way to protect your reputation. Defamation law tries to balance your right to avoid defamation and your right to freedom of speech. People should not damage another person’s reputation by stating lies about them; but on the other hand, everyone should have the freedom to speak freely without having a fear of litigation over an honest mistake, disagreement, and insult.
Courts have tried to balance an individual’s right to free speech with other’s right to not be subject to defamation. The truth is an “absolute defense” to a defamation lawsuit. It is important to prove the falsity of the statement to win the defamation case. If a statement is true, it cannot be false, and therefore, there is no prima facie case of defamation. The winning party may file charges for damages based on the form of defamation.
What are the Elements of a Defamation Lawsuit?
Defamation laws may vary from state to state; however, there are general rules that can be applied regardless of your location. It is advisable to consult a competent civil litigation attorney in Surprise AZ to understand the state laws on defamation. For Arizona libel or slander plaintiffs to succeed in their claim, they must prove:
- A person made a statement;
- The statement was published;
- The statement had caused you harm or injury;
- The statement was considered false; and
- The statement did not fall under a privileged category
A defamatory statement is a false statement of fact that is negligently or intentionally communicated or published to a third party, and that causes injury or damage to the subject of the statement. It has to be expressed in either a written (libel) or oral (slander) manner. Libel is considered more harmful than slander because written statements last longer than spoken statements. A defamatory statement can be extremely injurious if they include a private or public individual, abuse of children and minors, or sexual misconduct.
The term “published” doesn’t mean that the statement was printed – it just needs to have been made public through television, social media, speeches, radio, gossip, or even loud conversation. Furthermore, it could also have been written in books, magazines, newspapers, or leaflets.
To win a defamation case, false statements must be proven to have caused damage and injury to your reputation. If you are suing for defamation, you must show how your reputation was hurt by the false statement. For instance, a defamatory statement is considered damaging if you lost your job (termination) or were shunned by family members, as a consequence of the falsely made statement against you.
True statements are not considered defamation. Defamation law only considers statements that are proven “false”, otherwise it’s not considered damaging. Furthermore, most opinions don’t count as defamation because they can’t be proved to be objectively false.
The damaging statement should be categorized as “unprivileged” to qualify as a defamatory statement. In some cases, you can’t sue someone for defamation even if he or she makes a specific statement that can be proven false. For instance, if a witness testifies at a trial and mentions an injurious and false statement, then the witness will be immune to a defamation lawsuit because the process of testifying at trial is privileged.
How Do You Define Cyber Defamation?
Nowadays, technology has made it easier for people to speak their minds and post anything online through various social media platforms. In just one click, you can publish any statement that can easily reach billions of online users. However, some people use the internet as a breeding ground for potentially libelous statements. If a potentially defamatory statement that involves the written (or “posted”) word is published online through social media such Facebook, Twitter, or Linkedin, then it is considered libel. Defamatory statements can also be posted in various forms such as:
- Status update on social media websites
- Youtube videos
- Blogs and comments to blog postings
- Public comments on media (i.e., newspaper or magazine) websites
- Letters to the editor of local newspapers
Similar to the conventional form of defamation, you can also be sued for any offensive and defamatory statements that you share and post online.
What are the Higher Burdens for Defamation? (Public Officials and Figures)
The public is given less protection from damaging and defamatory statements and faces a higher burden when trying to succeed in the defamation case. When a public figure or official is criticized in a false and injurious way for something that relates to their behavior at work, the official must present the relevant facts with a typical defamation case, and must also show that the statement was made with “actual malice.”
Actual malice is the legal standard established by the Supreme Court for libel cases to determine when public officials or public figures may recover damages in lawsuits against the news media. Public officials cannot recover damages for libel without proving that a statement was made with actual malice — defined as “with the knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.” Other public figures such as celebrities, should also prove that all the damaging statements were made with actual malice.
What is Privilege Defense?
In some cases, a defendant can win against a defamation claim by asserting a privilege defense. Privilege exempts the speaker from liability for defaming another person. There are two types of defamation privilege – absolute privilege and conditional (or “qualified”) privilege.
The privileges given to members of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government can protect those officials from legal repercussions for making false, injurious, and damaging statements while on the job. Privileged speech may be protected or “qualified” (protected under certain conditions), depending on the jurisdiction.
How Important is a Civil Litigation Attorney?
Defamation can lead to being hated, ridiculed, belittled, or held in contempt by others, and lowers your self-esteem due to the communication of the false statement. It can cause emotional distress, mental anguish, and can affect your way of living. This tort can result in a lawsuit for actual damages. When someone defames you, or if you’re being accused of defamation, it is important to know your rights and understand the defamation law. For legal help, do not hesitate to schedule a consultation with our experienced Arizona civil litigation attorneys at Dodds Law Firm. Our lawyers can examine the details of your defamation case, know the legal terms, know the laws in your certain jurisdiction, measure the strengths and weaknesses of your defamation claim, devise a plan for possible defenses, and explain what you’ll need to prove to bring a successful civil lawsuit for defamation.