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FAQ’s About Defamation

Defamation is a suit that is often misunderstood; many confuse it with personal injury. Defamation is defined as one person causing injury to the reputation of another or causing a person to suffer public humiliation or degradation. Defamation can be written (liable) or spoken (slander). When an individual brings a defamation suit against another, they are seeking compensation for the damage done to their reputation. There are, however, several defenses against a suit for defamation.

The first defense is that the statement does not fall under the category of a defamatory statement. A defamatory statement must by definition cause the plaintiff to be exposed to public ridicule, hatred, or contempt. Statements such as insults, opinions, and those intended to annoy or provoke are not considered defamatory. If the defendant can prove that the statement falls under one of these categories they can successfully defend the suit. Another common defense is that the statement was true. If the defendant can prove that the statement was true, no matter what their intent may have been towards the plaintiff, they cannot be found guilty for defamation. A less used but still valid defense for defamation is that the plaintiff is deceased. The family of an individual cannot bring suit for defamation of an individual after they have passed away.

Other types of defenses are the protection from being sued due to privilege or immunity. There are several factors to determine whether a statement falls under privilege. One type of privilege is absolute privilege; this type of privilege covers statements between a doctor and patient or attorney and client. Another type of privilege is qualified privilege, this type of privilege covers statements between business partners, those that are made by employers criticizing their employees performance or the reason why employee was dismissed, and statements made to law enforcement regarding a crime that has been or is about to be committed when the person making the statement truly believes the statement. Good faith statutes are another defense to defamation which involves statements made by the press against a public figure. If the journalist can prove that they made the statements in good faith, without malice or intent to harm the public figure, a complaint against them will be dismissed. If the statement is proven to be false, however, the journalist may be required to retract the statement.

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