DEFAMATION (SLANDER AND LIBEL)

The act of defamation occurs when a person or entity makes an untrue or inaccurate statement that harms the standing or reputation of another person or entity. A defamatory statement can target a single individual, multiple people or an entire group or organization. What matters when determining whether a communication is defamatory is whether the statement is truthful and causes damage to another’s reputation. The experienced litigation lawyers of Bellatrix PC handle all forms of claims and defenses due to defamatory communications. Our attorneys can address allegations of defamation for businesses, not-for-profit corporations, charitable organizations, and individuals.

 

woman singer overlooking empty theater next to piano

What types of defamation exist?

There are two main types of defamatory conduct recognized by the law: defamation through spoken communication and defamation through written communication. When defamation occurs through oral statements, during a conversation or through a public speech it is typically referred to as slander. In contrast, when defamation is transmitted through the written word — such as a newspaper article, a posting to an online forum, or displayed on a sign — it is considered to be libel. While many people believe that the apparent anonymity of the Internet provides them with a license to speak untruthfully about other people, this is far from the case. In most cases an experienced and knowledgeable investigator or forensics professional can uncover the IP address that was used to make the written statement online. This IP address can then  be used to subpoena your internet service provider (ISP) to force them to turn over the identity that is associated with the IP address.

 

When can a false statement be considered defamatory?

A false  statement can be considered defamatory when certain legally defined characteristics are present. A false statement can be considered defamatory when all of the following are present:

  • An oral or written statement has been made about another person or entity;
  • The statement was transmitted or communicated to a third-party;
  • The statement was made either negligently or with intent to injure;
  • The statement caused harm  to the individual or entity it was targeted at.

A defamatory statement is, by definition, an incorrect statement of fact. For instance the claim that, “Jim stole $300 worth of paper supplies” would likely be considered to be a defamatory statement if it were untrue and communicated to a third party.  It is a factual statement that causes harm to Jim. However, statements that merely express an opinion are not considered defamation. For instance, if a co-worker was to say, “I think Jim’s pranks are childish”, such a statement would merely be expressing the speaker’s opinion. This would not be considered to be defamatory and Jim would be unlikely to have a viable cause of action.

 

When will a statement be considered to have caused damage to a reputation?

A statement is considered to have caused damage to an individual’s reputation if it reduces the perceived standing or worth of the individual in the eyes of others. However the determination as to whether harm was caused is a particularly context-sensitive inquiry. For instance, writings or statements made in a forum where  hyperbole or sarcasm are prevalent would be analyzed under a more forgiving light than official statements or contexts where a non-embellished factual statement would be expected. We can advise your business as to how statements are likely to be perceived in a court.

Put our defamation litigation attorneys to work for your business

If your business is being threatened with a defamation lawsuit, or if your business is a victim of defamation, Bellatrix PC can help. Call us at (800) 449-8992 or contact us online to schedule your confidential legal consultation.