Character defamation “is a collective term for any statement that violates a person’s reputation. Written defamation is called “libel,” while spoken defamation is called “slander.”
Defamation is not a crime, but you can be sued in civil court for this wrongful act. A person who has been defamed can sue the person who made the defamatory statement against them for damages. The Defamation Act seeks to balance competing interests: on the one hand, people shouldn’t ruin others’ lives by telling lies about them; on the other hand, people should be able to speak and/freely and without fear of litigation about any insult or disagreement.
Political and social disagreements are important in a free society, and we obviously don’t all share the same opinions or beliefs. For example, political opponents often come to opposite conclusions from the same facts, and editorial cartoonists often exaggerate facts to clarify their point of view.
What does the victim have to prove to identify defamation?
The defamation law varies from state to state, but there are some generally accepted rules. If you think you have been “defamed”, you usually have to prove that there is a statement that contains the following statements:
Let’s look at each of these defamation claim elements in detail.
- The “statement” can be spoken, written, mapped, or even gestured. Because written statements exist longer than verbal statements, most courts, juries, and insurance companies consider libel to be more harmful than slander.
- “Published” means that a third party has heard or seen the statement – someone other than the person who made the statement or the person who was the subject of the statement has either heard the statement or seen it in writing. Published “does not necessarily mean that the statement was printed in a book – it just has to be published through social media, television, radio, speech, gossip, or even loud talk. Of course, it could have been in magazines, books, newspapers, leaflets, or on some kind of posted sign. A defamatory statement must be untrue – otherwise it is not considered harmful. Even terribly mean or degrading things are not defamatory if the shoe fits. Most opinions are not considered defamation because there is no evidence that they are objectively wrong. For example, when a reviewer says, “That was the worst book I’ve read all year,” she doesn’t defame the author because the statement can’t be proven wrong. The statement must be “harmful”.
- Since the essence of the Defamation Act is to deal with reputation violations, those who complain of defamation must demonstrate how their reputation was harmed by the wrong statement – for example, the person who lost their job; Their friends or family members will no longer interact with them; or they are being bothered by the press. Someone who has already has a terrible reputation will most likely not collect much in a defamation suit.
- Finally, the offensive statement must be “not privileged” to be considered a defamatory statement. Under certain circumstances, you cannot sue anyone for defamation, even if they make a statement that can be proven to be false. For example, witnesses who testify incorrectly in court or on filing cannot be sued (although witnesses who testify of something they know is wrong could theoretically be accused of perjury) that in these and other situations that are considered “privileged” freedom of speech is so important that speakers should not be restricted by worries that they will be sued for defamation. The legislature itself also enjoys this privilege: it is not liable for statements in the legislature or in official documents, even if it says or writes things that would otherwise be defamatory.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Officials and personalities have more to prove the public has the right to criticize the people who rule it, so that officials are least protected from defamation. If officials are accused of having anything to do with their conduct in office, they must provide evidence of all of the defamation elements listed above, and they must also demonstrate that the defendant acted “maliciously”. People who are not elected but are still public figures because they are influential or famous – like movie stars – in most cases also have to prove that defamatory statements were made with actual malice.
History of defamation and the first change In the landmark case of the 1964 New York Times v. Sullivan, The United States Supreme Court ruled that certain defamatory statements were protected by the first amendment. The case was about a newspaper article about a public figure, a politician. The Court noted that “there is a deep national commitment to the principle that the debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and open”. The Court acknowledged that in public discussions – particularly public figures such as politicians- mistakes can be made. If these mistakes are “made honestly”, they should be protected from defamation measures. The court ruled that officials can only sue statements about their public behavior if the statements were made with “actual malice”. Actual malice “means that the person who made the statement knew that it was not true or did not care whether it was true or not and was ruthless about the truth – for example, when someone had doubts about the truth, however, they do not bother to check this before the release. Later cases have built on the New York Times rule, so the law now aligns the rules of defamation law with the interests of the First Amendment. Whether a defamation is contestable depends on what was said, who it was, and whether it was a matter of public interest and was therefore protected by the first change. Private people who are defamed have more protection than public figures — freedom of speech isn’t as important when the statements don’t involve an issue of public interest. A private person who is defamed can prevail without having to prove that the defamer acted with actual malice.
What is Defamation Per Se
Defamation per se are false statements that are considered so harmful that they are considered defamatory on their face (“defamation per se”). This is in contrast to “Defamation per quod”, in which the wrong statement is not inherently defamatory and must be assessed in connection with additional facts. In general, the defamation statements are considered harmful as such, while the defamation as such must be proven to be damaging. Most, but not all, states recognize the distinction between these two types of defamation.
Defamation per se and untrue statements:
Traditionally, there have been four general categories of untrue statements that qualify for defamation per se, that have been believed to damage an individual’s reputation and can therefore be used as a claim for damages. If the statements do not fall into one of these categories, the plaintiff usually has to prove their damage. If it falls into one of these categories, damage is assumed.
The four general categories are:
- Evidence that a person has been involved in criminal activity.
- Statements that a person has had a “hideous”, contagious or contagious disease.
- Statements that a person has been unchaste or committed sexual misconduct.
- Statements that a person has been involved in behavior that is inconsistent with the proper conduct of their business, trade or profession.
For example, in one case in the Alaska Supreme Court, a woman accused a man of assault, battery, and improper detention, and he sued her for defamation. The court said that since the statements alleged a serious crime, the man was not required to prove the damage to his reputation and emotional burden. As a result, his award was confirmed.
In one case before the Texas Supreme Court, one doctor sued another for a letter he circulated saying the doctor had a reputation for not being true. The court ruled that this was not a defamation per se because it did not hurt the doctor in his profession and the doctor had to prove that he had suffered mental agony and loss of reputation.
Although most states more or less adhere to these four categories, the precise definition and rules that apply to this particular form of defamation Per Se in your state can only be determined by reviewing law in your jurisdiction.
Defamation Per Se damages:
Depending on the circumstances of the individual case, the following claims for damages can be asserted:
General Damage: Compensation for past and future damage done to the reputation of the community, mental or emotional agony, and personal humiliation. Special damage: The compensation for a certain economic damage caused by the defamation. This can include, for example, the loss of profits and the loss of a job.
Nominal damage: A nominal amount that can be granted if there has been a defamation Per Se but no serious damage to reputation has occurred.
Putative or exemplary damage: Additional amounts that serve as a punishment or model if the accused acts deliberately or maliciously.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Truth is an absolute defense against false statements It should be noted that truth is an absolute defense against defamation Per Se. This means that even if the statement itself was considered defamatory, if it were wrong, an action cannot survive if the accused person determines that it is actually true.
Now that you know what defamation Per Se is, the Law Offices Of SRIS, P.C. only handles defamation per se cases. Why do we handle defamation Per Se cases only? This is because we recognize that individuals such as doctors, police officers, lawyers, psychologists and nurses and other licensed professional are governed by an regulatory body such as the AMA(doctors), the Bar (lawyers), Internal Affairs (IA – police officers), etc.
So often, certain professionals are maliciously targeted by disgruntled individuals, clients, patients, etc. These professionals deserve protection.
So how does the Law Offices Of SRIS, P.C. handle defamation Per Se cases in Virginia & Maryland?
Our Maryland/Virginia lawyers who handle Per Se cases request that the client consults with us about their case in Virginia or Maryland. We ask our Maryland or Virginia client to pay us $300 for up to an hour consultation about their Per Se case. At the conclusion of the consultation in most cases, we inform our Maryland/Virginia client whether we believe they have a case and whether we are willing to handle their case on a contingency basis. What this means is that we will handle their case for 40% of the recovery of damages from the individual or individuals who made the Per Se statements. The Maryland/Virginia client does not pay us any fees upfront. We only collect if we recover damages from the individual who made the Per Se statement(s).
If the Law Offices Of SRIS, P.C. Per Se Maryland/Virginia lawyers agree to take your Per Se case on a contingency fee basis, then the client is initially responsible to pay the actual upfront costs, such as filing fee, court reporter fees, private investigator fees, asset determination fees, etc. Our fee is paid from the damages recovered from suing the individual who made the defamation Per Se statements.
If the Law Offices Of SRIS, P.C. agrees to represent you in Maryland/Virginia, then we will have you sign a retainer laying out specifically how your case will be handled and how all the fees will be paid. Once you sign the retainer, we go to work to protect your reputation.
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