Defamation is a statement that injures a third party’s reputation, and includes both libel (written statements) and slander (spoken statements). The law in this area aims to protect a person’s reputation, while still protecting the alleged defamer’s first amendment right of free speech. To balance these competing interests, the law requires that the plaintiff show four things:
- a defamatory statement (statement of fact or opinion that implies a representation of fact);
- of or concerning the plaintiff;
- publication or communication of that statement to a third person; and
- damages to plaintiff.
Different rules apply depending on whether the individual defamed is a public figure, or whether the defamation involves a matter of public concern.
There are several privileges that serve to protect a speaker against lawsuits even if the speech was false. Some of these privileges are codified (written into our statutes). The litigation privilege, for example, applies to any communication
- made in judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings;
- by litigants or other participants authorized by law;
- to achieve the objects of the litigation; and
- that have some connection or logical relation to the action. Other privileges and defenses apply to specific claims.
Contact us today to learn more about the specifics of your matter.