With the increase of social media and our digital lives becoming increasingly public, cases of defamation are more common than ever. Defamation, which occurs when one party writes or says something untrue about another party, can cause a variety of financial and social concerns. The defamation lawyers at Devry Smith Frank LLP (DSF) can help you navigate the complex litigation surrounding defamation and assist you in recovering damages.
Types of Defamatory Statements
A defamatory statement is one that has the ability to damage a person’s reputation. These statements can either be written (libelous) or spoken (slanderous).
A libelous statement refers to one made in written or printed words (but may also be made by way of a picture, film, audio recording, or other medium).
A slanderous statement, on the other hand, is made in spoken word (but may also include a gesture or sign).
It can be difficult to recover damages for slander. Typically, the only way you can take action against slander is if you can prove special damages.
Exceptions to Proving Slander: One need not prove special damages if one of the following exceptions applies: The exceptions include accusing someone of committing a crime, accusing a woman of being unchaste, accusing someone of having a loathsome disease, and accusing a person of being unfit to practice their trade or profession.
Special Damages: Unless one of these exceptions applies, then proof of special damage is required. This means that the person slandered must show some form of material loss. General damages for hurt feelings or loss of reputation are not recoverable.
Proving a Statement to be Defamatory
A statement that is offensive to a person, is not instantly defamatory. Legally, a victim’s opinion about a statement is not considered when determining whether it is defamatory. Rather, the following criteria must be satisfied for the statement to be ruled defamatory:
- A statement is defamatory if it is one that the average, decent members of one’s community would think of as defamatory.
- It is not necessary to prove that the defamatory statements were made maliciously. Courts will consider the natural and ordinary meaning of the words used, rather than the intention of the person who used the words. In some cases, courts may also examine secondary meanings or innuendos.
- A statement that can be proved to be true is not defamatory.
- A statement that is false but does not cause harm is also not defamatory. Not every mistake in a publication constitutes defamation.
- Similarly, it must be proven that the statement was communicated to, or at least made in, the presence of a third party who understands it.
Seeking Damages for Defamation
Defamation can be a complicated and difficult matter to prove. If you feel you have been defamed, the DSF lawyers are here to help.
If you believe that you have been defamed, or if someone has accused you of defamation, please contact our office at (416) 449-1400