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:
(1) a defamatory statement (statement of fact or opinion that implies a representation of fact);
(2) of or concerning the plaintiff;
(3) publication or communication of that statement to a third person; and
(4) 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
(1) made in judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings;
(2) by litigants or other participants authorized by law;
(3) to achieve the objects of the litigation; and
(4) 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.