One of the most frequently misunderstood causes of action in the civil area of law is defamation, which, when written, is called “libel” and when spoken, is called “slander.” Often, it is thought that someone simply speaking ill of another, or posting nasty messages on Facebook or Twitter, constitutes defamation. The reality is much more complicated.
A successful defamation case has the following elements: A person must have made an “unprivileged false statement of fact” about you; the statement must have caused you “material harm”; and the person defaming you must have acted either negligently or with actual malice, depending on a number of factors, including whether or not you are a “public person,” and therefore meant to be less harmed by a public comment about you.
The burden to meet in defamation cases is, obviously, very difficult for someone to meet because, as you can see above, there is a lot to prove, and some of those things are tough to get tangible evidence to establish that proof. For example, “truth” is a bar to recovery in a defamation case. Which in turn, raises the question of what constitutes “truth?” For example, if your ex-husband posts on Facebook that you are a bad mother, the inquiry becomes, “is there any evidence that the ex-husband might have to support his version of the truth wherein you are a bad mother?” Similarly, hurt feelings are often not considered “material harm,” so damages can be very difficult for juries to ascertain.
However, certain types of defamation do not require as much proof, and these are known as defamation per se. This happens when someone makes a public statement or publication that alleges criminal conduct, discloses falsely that a person has a contagious disease, or makes statements about a person’s sexual misconduct. In these cases, it is easier to proceed in a case because you do not have to prove the statements are defamation. . . they are defamation by definition.
Stracci Law Group will proceed on your behalf for defamation if there is a case, but just as importantly, we will give you an honest assessment of your situation to let you know if you are or are not a victim of defamation.