Everything You Need to Know to Bring & Succeed in a Defamation Lawsuit
A defamation lawsuit is a type of civil lawsuit in which the victim sues a defendant for defamation, a false statement made to a third party that causes damage to another person or business’s reputation.
To successfully bring and succeed in a defamation lawsuit, a plaintiff must:
· Determine that they have a valid defamation claim;
· Identify the best court to file the defamation lawsuit;
· Gather and preserve their evidence;
· Comply with all pre-suit filing requirements;
· Consider alternative dispute or pre-suit resolution tactics; and
· Draft, file, and serve the legal complaint on the defaming party.
At The Lockwood Legal Group, we have proven experience filing countless successful defamation lawsuits.
The comprehensive guide in our website’s under the defamation section, will address each step in the process and examine the nuts and bolts of bringing a defamation of character lawsuit. We also examine potential procedural hurdles and defenses you may need to overcome. You can read more about this topic by clicking on libel and slander which will take you to all the articles on our website dealing with defamation.
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How to Prove Defamation
When filing a defamation lawsuit, it is important to understand the difference between different forms of defamation. If a plaintiff asserts an incorrect legal claim, the case may be thrown out—and the case will not be allowed to proceed.
It is also imperative to understand the basic elements of proving a defamation claim once it has been brought. We tackle both subjects below and in our section on defamation.
What Are the Types of Defamation?
Defamation is a false statement made to a third party that causes damage to an individual’s or business’s reputation. Defamation can take various forms and occur in different contexts—and as a result, there are several kinds of defamation recognized by most states.
The two most common forms of defamation are libel and slander.
Differences between libel and slander
Libel is defamation in written form, while slander is defamation in spoken form.
The difference between libel and slander is that one is written, and the other is spoken. A helpful way to remember the two is to keep in mind that slander and spoken both begin with the letter “S.”
Defamation is also commonly referred to as:
· Character assassination,
· Calumny, and
The tort of defamation.
A tort simply means a wrongful act or omission that causes a personal injury and gives rise to a civil claim for liability.
Defamation that occurs online is called internet defamation, or online defamation. This type of defamation frequently takes place on social media, online review platforms, and other user-generated content platforms.
Businesses that are defamed
Similar to individuals, businesses that are defamed also have an array of legal claims and remedies available under U.S. defamation laws, such as:
Injurious falsehood (also known as business disparagement), and
Unfair/deceptive trade practices.
Defamation Per Se
Another classification of defamation is defamation per se (also known as libel per se or slander per se, depending on whether the statement was written or spoken). This term refers to certain defamatory statements that are so damaging that the victim is automatically assumed to have suffered harm as a result of the statement.
Most U.S. states recognize statements as defamatory per se if they:
· Accuse the plaintiff of committing a punishable crime or a crime of moral turpitude,
· Allege that the plaintiff has a loathsome disease,
· Claim that the plaintiff has engaged in sexual misconduct, or
· State that the plaintiff has acted improperly or unethically in his or her job.
Even though harm is “presumed” in defamation per se cases, that does not mean the plaintiff is not responsible for proving that suffering occurred. To receive damages, the plaintiff must still provide evidence of harm.
Defamation Per Quod
Some statements are not inherently defamatory on their face but instead become defamatory because of extrinsic facts that are known or appear outside the context and writing at issue. These types of statements are considered defamation per quod.
In these situations, the victim must provide extrinsic evidence to show how the statement qualifies as defamation. In other words, defamatory per quod cases require a statement to be put into context with external information before it can be considered defamatory and harmful.
An example of a statement that could be considered defamatory is if someone was accused of sitting at a bar and having a drink. On its face, this accusation, even if false, is not defamatory. However, if that person happens to be an alcoholic and has built a reputation over the last ten years abstaining from alcohol, the false claim that they were drinking could qualify as defamation.
In most states, defamation per quod cases require a plaintiff to prove two things:
That a statement was false and damaging, and
The amount or severity of the special damages they suffered (such as monetary loss, emotional suffering, or reputational damage).
It is also the plaintiff’s responsibility to prove that the damages they suffered were a direct result of the defendant’s statements or conduct.
Generally speaking, defamation refers to a civil tort, enabling the plaintiff to obtain a civil remedy – often monetary damages or equitable relief. Some state statutes make it a crime to publish specific types of defamatory statements—but in reality, these criminal defamation laws are rarely enforced.
In the U.S., there are currently only 13 states that have criminal defamation laws on their books: Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, Montana, New Hampshire, and North Dakota.
Over the years, many states’ criminal defamation and libel laws have been challenged or overturned for lack of specificity and for infringing on free speech. The U.S. has a history of placing a strong value on the First Amendment and protecting citizens’ rights to free speech, which can make proving defamation difficult.
Defamation is a defense-friendly claim with dozens of defamation defenses that defendants can use to avoid facing legal consequences. However, there are still three key situations in which defamers can land jail time:
· When they have violated a restraining order;
· When they have violated a court order related to libelous behavior and are held in contempt of court; and
· When they are charged with related crimes, such as extortion, harassment, or stalking.
Contact The Lockwood Legal Group, LLC today!
If you think you might have a case, it is crucial you contact a qualified attorney right away. We understand litigation is often daunting to those who are not attorneys. but rest assured, we will be here for you all throughout the process. No one fights harder for their clients then attorneys of The Lockwood Legal Group, LLC.
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