Defamation, whether libel or slander, is the making public of a false statement about a person that causes damage to their reputation. The majority of defendants in defamation, libel, and slander actions are publishers and newspapers, and to a lesser extent television broadcasters. The definitions of defamation libel and slander vary from state to state so it is important to know the laws of your particular state before embarking on any legal process. However, there are no states in which a defamation action can be taken if the injured party is deceased.
Broadly there are four elements that the plaintiff is required to prove in a defamation lawsuit, whether for libel (a defamatory written statement, for example in a newspaper or other publication) or slander (a defamatory spoken statement.) These are as follows:
In the context of libel or slander ‘per se’ means defamation that is intrinsically damaging. In other words, there is no requirement in these cases for ‘damage’ or injury to be established, as proof of the fact that one of these statements has been made is sufficient. Broadly there are four categories to defamation per se; accusing someone of a crime, imputing serious sexual misconduct (e.g. chastity of a woman); casting adverse comment on someone’s ability to conduct business or trade; or that someone has a disease, for example a sexually transmitted disease or mental illness. With the exception of five states (Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee) all states in the US consider these categories to be defamatory per se.
It can be very hurtful to be the victim of libelous or slanderous statements and you will undoubtedly be very angry. However, before you commence an action there are certain aspects that you should consider first. See our article ‘Defenses to Libel and Slander’ for further information. To find out whether you might have a case for defamation, contact a personal injury attorney without delay.