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.
- A false statement of fact about a person or company.
- Publication of the false statement. Internet defamation typically occurs with a blog post, comment, review or video / audio statement.
- 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.
- 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.