Defamation - Libel and Slander

California Defamation: Libel and Slander

Defamation basically describes when one person harms another’s reputation by speech or written words. Defamation is a tort, meaning that private individuals can sue one another for damages caused by the defamation. There are two categories of defamation; slander and libel.

Orange County Defamation Lawsuit Lawyer

Slander is defamatory statements made in a transitory way; generally this means through oral speech. Libel, by contrast, includes only statements made in a printed or static medium which can include the internet, and magazines. Generally there are 5 elements to a claim for defamation:

  1. Publication (by written words or speech) of a statement presented as a fact;
  2. Falsity of the statement;
  3. Published without privilege;
  4. Is per se defamatory or causes special damages;
  5. The appropriate mental state;

Whether an individual is liable for defamation often turns on the mental state required, which depends on whether the statement is of a private or public matter and whether the person is a public figure or not. For example, a defamatory statement about a private person regarding a private matter does not require a malicious mental state; the statement can simply be made with negligence. On the other hand when an individual is a public figure and the statement is of a matter of private concern the statement must be made with malice; in other words intentional disregard of a substantial risk that the information was wrong.

Additionally, there are two types of defamatory statements; defamation per se and defamation per quod. Defamation per se is essentially statements that are so extreme that they are assumed to have damaged one’s reputation. This includes any type of statement involving the following:

  • Professional misconduct such as dishonesty in business or trade.
  • Guilt as to a criminal offense.
  • Infection with a loathsome disease such as a sexually transmitted infection.
  • Egregious sexual misconduct.

Defamation per quod on the other hand is not immediately recognizable as being damaging to one’s reputation, but if an individual can show that the statements are directly related to harm actually suffered then damages may be available. Defamation per quod can include innuendo. However, in order to recover in a case alleging per quod defamation one must show that special damages were caused such as loss of business or other loss.

Defenses to Defamation

A number of defenses and privileges to defamation can allow a defendant to escape liability.

Truth is a common defense, in fact in claims brought by public figures or regarding matters of public interest the plaintiff has a burden to prove that the statement was actually false. A statement does not need to be 100% accurate in every way to be considered true.

If an individual consents to publication they may not bring a defamation claim. Additionally, if the statement is protected by a privilege it will not be considered defamatory. Privileges include if the statements are a part of a public record, or if the statements were published by a spouse against their own husband or wife.

Further, if one of the elements for defamation is not met a case for defamation will fail. For example, the statement must be told as if it were a fact, statements of opinion are not actionable.

Examples of Defamation

One common example of defamation includes when a prospective home buyer is told by a neighbor of a property seller that the property seller cheated the neighbor. If the buyer then backs out of the sale because of the statements the property seller would have a case for defamation. Another example is if a person is accused of a crime but a news agency reports that the person is guilty rather than saying that the person was merely charged with a crime.

Orange County Defamation Lawsuit Attorney

The Law Offices of Tony T. Liu can help defend against and pursue defamation claims. To schedule a consultation with an experienced California attorney call (714)415-2007 today.

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