Can I Pursue Legal Action for Defamation and Slander?
If you have been the victim of false statements that have caused harm, you may have the right to sue for defamation. By proving defamation through either libel (written) or slander (spoken), you may be eligible to receive compensation for your actual monetary losses or injuries. This can include:
- Lost earnings
- Reduced earning capacity
- Impairment to your reputation and standing in the community
- Pain and suffering
- Personal shame and humiliation
In cases where the defamatory statement was intentionally made to cause harm, punitive damages may also be awarded. Punitive damages serve to punish the wrongdoer for negligent acts or deliberate misconduct. If the statement was made for retribution or personal gain, the court has the discretion to award punitive damages.
In some rare circumstances, the court can grant injunctive relief to the plaintiff. This relief can temporarily halt the publication of a defamatory statement before a final judgment is reached. For example, if you come across an article that includes defamatory statements about your family, you can request injunctive relief to prevent its publication until a hearing can determine its defamatory nature.
What is Required to Prove Defamation?
In order to prove defamation, several elements must be demonstrated:
- Someone made a statement.
- The statement was communicated in oral or written form to a third party.
- You suffered an injury or damages as a result of the statement.
- The statement made was false.
- The statement made was not protected, meaning it was not an opinion or the truth.
Truth serves as an absolute defense against defamation. If the statement can be proven true, no damages can be recovered since the truth cannot be considered defamatory. It is important to note that statements made during a trial or deposition are privileged and protected, even if they are defamatory.
Proving an injury or damages resulting from a defamatory statement can often be challenging. Losses may include being denied employment, inability to secure a job, termination from a job, denial of opportunities, or requiring medical treatment to cope with the consequences of the defamatory statement.
Defamation, Privacy, and the First Amendment
The First Amendment of the United States protects the freedom of speech and grants considerable freedom for the public to express their opinions about elected officials and public figures. Public figures, however, receive less protection from defamatory statements and face a higher burden of proof when pursuing a defamation lawsuit.
When a public official or celebrity encounters a false and harmful statement, they must prove the five aforementioned elements and demonstrate “actual malice.” Actual malice occurs when someone knowingly makes a false statement or exhibits a reckless disregard for the truth.
This requirement exists because public figures have a diminished expectation of privacy compared to those who do not willingly place themselves in the public eye. In essence, it is an inherent aspect of being a public figure.
Who Can Be Held Liable for Defamation?
It is clear that individuals who make defamatory statements can be held legally responsible for defamation. However, it is important to understand that a person can also commit defamation by simply repeating a defamatory statement made by someone else.
For instance, let’s imagine that your ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend falsely tells a large group of your neighbors that you served time in prison for murder. Among this group is a podcast host who records and broadcasts the entire conversation. In this scenario, your ex could be found guilty of slander, while the podcast host could be found guilty of libel. You can file separate claims against each party.
If you believe you have been a victim of defamation, it is crucial to seek the guidance of experienced attorneys who specialize in defamation cases. Garrity Traina is a reputable law firm with extensive expertise in handling defamation matters. Reach out to them if you require professional assistance.