Legal Elements of Defamation, Slander & Libel.

October 25th, 2011

Question:  What are the legal elements which must be proven in a defamation, libel or slander lawsuit?

Answer: Defamation can occur in written form (libel) or spoken form (slander). In order for a plaintiff to prove defamation of character for either libel or slander claims, the person defamed must prove the following.

  1. A false statement of fact about a person or company.
  2. Publication of the false statement. Internet defamation typically occurs with a blog post, comment, review or video / audio statement.
  3. That the false statement was at least negligently made without reason to believe the statement was factually correct. In certain matters of public concern, actual malice must be proven in addition to falsity. Actual malice can be shown if the person knowingly publishes false statement of fact or at least recklessly does so.
  4. Either mental anguish or damages (depending on state law) causally related to the defamation. The false statement must harm the reputation of the person defamed. In certain states, defamation per se allows a person to plead a case without proving specific damages.

Different states handle defamation claims in different ways. Some states have anti-SLAPP laws which allow a defendant accused of defamation to file an early motion to dismiss and shift attorney fees to the plaintiff if the court determines that the goal of the Plaintiff in filing the lawsuit was to inhibit free speech or intimidate the Defendant.

Internet law lawyers have to understand not only the law, but the online world of the internet.  If you would like to talk to an internet lawyer about a defamation issue, contact one of our defamation attorneys today.

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4 Responses to “Legal Elements of Defamation, Slander & Libel.”

  1. The elements of libel are not that much different than the elements of slander. Defamation is a general legal principle for both libel and slander. Libel is written defamation. Slander is spoken defamation.

    For both who libel and slander, you need to plead and prove each element of the offense. Certainly, you need to establish that a false statement of fact was made. This is a tricky element because it is often unclear what the difference is between an opinion and the fact. When there are multiple statements being made, a court might look at them in total and in context in order to term and whether or not the cumulative statements state a fact.

    On the Internet, proving publication is not only easy but typically captured by a screen print or webpage. In Internet law attorney specializing in Internet defamation will be able to help you document the defamatory publication which will be critical for your proofs in court.

    Sometimes, a defendant whose been sued for defamation on the Internet will simply respond that they thought the statement was true or republish the statement from somewhere else believing it to be true. In most affirmation cases, the law requires you to establish that the person was at least negligent posting a false statement of fact. This means that with some effort they should’ve known the statement they were making was false.

    Proving damages in a defamation case is always challenging. It is often difficult to find a customer or witness who will say that they would have paid you money but for the defamatory statement posted on the Internet. Defamation law provides a number of vehicles to obtain damages even if you cannot prove because the loss of a specific customer.

    Hiring an Internet law attorney who specializes in online defamation issues of both libel and slander is an important 1st step in understanding your legal rights. Whether you are the victim of online defamation or been wrongly accused of Internet libel or slander, you need to educate yourself 1st so that you can make good legal decisions.

  2. Enrico S. says:

    Libel elements are almost the same as slander elements. However, it is often impossible to retract libel in the off-line world.

  3. Understanding the elements of defamation is the first step in analyzing the merits of your defamation law claim or defense. Too many clients fail to understand each element and its requirements. If you miss one element of the cause of action for defamation, whether libel or slander, your court case could get thrown out.

  4. What are the elements of defamation?

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