Defamation and libel definitions

Below are some random search results for libel and defamation:


An untruthful statement about a person, published in writing or through broadcast media, that injures the person’s reputation or standing in the community. Because libel is a tort (a civil wrong), the injured person can bring a lawsuit against the person who made the false statement. Libel is a form of defamation , as is slander (an untruthful statement that is spoken, but not published in writing or broadcast through the media).

Elements of Libel and Slander
Specific requirements that a plaintiff must prove in order to recover in a defamation action differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Under the Restatement (Second) of Torts, which is drafted by the American Law Institute and has been influential among state courts, a plaintiff must prove four elements.

First, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant made a false and defamatory statement concerning the plaintiff.[emphasis added]
Second, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant made an unprivileged publication to a third party.
Third, the plaintiff must prove that the publisher acted at least negligently in publishing the communication.
Fourth, in some cases, the plaintiff must prove special damages.
Defamatory Statements
One essential element in any defamation action is that the defendant published something defamatory about the plaintiff. The Restatement defines a communication as defamatory “if it tends so to harm the reputation of another as to lower him in the estimation of the community or to deter third persons from associating with him.” Examples of defamatory statements are virtually limitless and may include any of the following:

A communication that imputes a serious crime involving moral turpitude or a felony
A communication that exposes a plaintiff to hatred
A communication that reflects negatively on the plaintiff’s character, morality, or integrity
A communication that impairs the plaintiff’s financial well-being
A communication that suggests that the plaintiff suffers from a physical or mental defect that would cause others to refrain from associating with the plaintiff
One question with which courts have struggled is how to determine which standard should govern whether a statement is defamatory. Many statements may be viewed as defamatory by some individuals, but the same statement may not be viewed as defamatory by others. Generally, courts require a plaintiff to prove that he or she has been defamed in the eyes of the community or within a defined group within the community. Juries usually decide this question.

Courts have struggled to some degree with the treatment of statements of opinions. At common law, statements of opinion could form the basis of a defamation action similar to a statement of pure fact. Generally, if a statement implies defamatory facts as the basis of the opinion, then the statement may be actionable.

Publication Requirement
Another requirement in libel and slander cases is that the defendant must have published defamatory information about the plaintiff. Publication certainly includes traditional forms, such as communications included in books, newspapers, and magazines, but it also includes oral remarks. So long as the person to whom a statement has been communicated can understand the meaning of the statement, courts will generally find that the statement has been published.

Meaning of a Communication
In some instances, the context of a statement may determine whether the statement is defamatory. The Restatement provides as follows: “The meaning of a communication is that which the recipient correctly, or mistakenly but reasonably, understands that it was intended to express.” Courts generally will take into account extrinsic facts and circumstances in determining the meaning of the statement. Thus, even where two statements are identical in their words, one may be defamatory while the other is not, depending on the context of the statements.

Reference to the Plaintiff
In a defamation action, the recipient of a communication must understand that the defendant intended to refer to the plaintiff in the communication. Even where the recipient mistakenly believes that a communication refers to the plaintiff, this belief, so long as it is reasonable, is sufficient. It is not necessary that the communication refer to the plaintiff by name. A defendant may publish defamatory material in the form of a story or novel that apparently refers only to fictitious characters, where a reasonable person would understand that a particular character actually refers to the plaintiff. This is true even if the author states that he or she intends for the work to be fictional.

In some circumstances, an author who publishes defamatory matter about a group or class of persons may be liable to an individual member of the group or class. This may occur when: (1) the communication refers to a group or class so small that a reader or listener can reasonably understand that the matter refers to the plaintiff; and (2) the reader or listener can reasonably conclude that the communication refers to the individual based on the circumstances of the publication.

┬áDEFAMATION – An act of communication that causes someone to be shamed, ridiculed, held in contempt, lowered in the estimation of the community, or to lose employment status or earnings or otherwise suffer a damaged reputation. Such defamation is couched in ‘defamatory language’. Libel and slander are defamation.

Although defamation is primarily governed by state law, the First Amendment safeguards for freedom of speech and press limit state law. New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 264 (1964); Masson, 501 U.S. at 510. The scope of constitutional protection extends to statements of opinion on matters of public concern that do not contain or imply a provable factual assertion. Milkovich, 497 U.S. at 20 (rejecting categorical exemption of all statements in form of opinion; statement that may imply verifiable assertion of fact is actionable).

To determine whether a statement implies a factual assertion, courts examine the totality of the circumstances in which it was made. First, they look at the statement in its broad context, which includes the general tenor of the entire work, the subject of the statements, the setting, and the format of the work. Next they turn to the specific context and content of the statements, analyzing the extent of figurative or hyperbolic language used and the reasonable expectations of the audience in that particular situation. Finally, they inquire whether the statement itself is sufficiently factual to be susceptible of being proved true or false. See Partington v. Bugliosi, 56 F.3d 1147, 1153 (9th Cir.’94) (applying three-factor test as the starting point for analysis); Unelko Corp. v. Rooney, 912 F.2d 1049, 1053 (9th Cir.’90), cert. denied, 499 U.S. 961 (1991).

‘[T]he First Amendment requires that the courts allow latitude for interpretation.’ Partington, 56 F.3d at 1154 (quoting Moldea v. New York Times Co., 22 F.3d 310, 315 (D.C.Cir.), cert. denied, 115 S.Ct. 202 (1994)).

The speaking slanderous words of a person so as to hurt his good fame.

In the United States, the remedy for defamation is by an action on the case, where the words are slanderous.

What are the defenses to a defamation claim?

Ideally you can assert that the remarks never happened or you were not involved in the discussion or writing. Outside of that, there are three main defenses to a defamation claim:

(1) The first is that the statement was privileged, and so must be held in strict confidence. Certain professions (doctors, lawyers, psychologists), or individuals (chiefly your spouse) may maintain a privilege; and if any non-privileged third party was part of the communication, the privilege is broken. Employees of a professional are included to the extent that you needed to use them to contact the professional. Don’t tell your deepest, darkest secret to your attorney’s secretary and expect to maintain the privilege.

(2) The second defense is that the statement is true, for “truth is an absolute defense.” Establishing the truth is the single most effective defense that can be made. If a truthful remark hurts, is embarrassing, or subjects you to ridicule, there is little you can do. Unless the remark is false, you do not have a valid claim.

(3) The third defense is that the statement was an opinion, not an assertion of a fact. This depends on the words used. There’s a world of difference between saying “I think he’s a crook,” and “He’s a crook.” However, a third party may pass on the message without quoting “I think,” and that can weaken the opinion defense.

To find out your best options, consult an experienced libel and slander attorney in your area.

The second defense is claiming, and proving, that the statement is true, for “truth is an absolute defense”.

The third defense is claiming, and proving, that the statement was an opinion, not an assertion of a fact. Since this last defense is only as good as the weakest or worst, but still reasonable, misinterpretation, it’s not one you really want to rely on. There’s a world of difference between saying “I think he’s a crook,” and “he’s a crook”. Especially if a third party might inadvertently leave out the first two words when passing your message on.

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