Michigan Defamation Law Basics: MCL 600.2911 (Sec. 2911).
As a defamation attorney practicing across the United States, with lawyers and offices in Michigan, we handle a large number of Michigan libel and slander cases. Many lawyers fail to understand the intricacies of Michigan’s libel and slander statute. While there are often similarities, many states have different defamation laws. If you plan on filing a lawsuit for defamation, you will need an experienced local attorney licensed to practice in the state in which you plan to file a lawsuit.
Here are the basics of Michigan’s libel (written) and slander (spoken) defamation statute.
Defamation Per Se: MCL 600.2911 (1) Words imputing a lack of chastity to any female or male are actionable in themselves and subject the person who uttered or published them to a civil action for the slander in the same manner as the uttering or publishing of words imputing the commission of a criminal offense.
Unlike some states, Michigan only recognizes defamation per se for false statements of fact which impute a lack of chastity, immoral or criminal conduct. Other states include additional categories such as business reputation. Defamation per se plaintiffs do not need to allege or prove special damages. Damages to reputation and feelings are presumed. Otherwise, plaintiffs are limited to actual damages unless they first request a retraction.
Actual Damages Only: MCL 600.2911(2)(a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), in actions based on libel or slander the plaintiff is entitled to recover only for the actual damages which he or she has suffered in respect to his or her property, business, trade, profession, occupation, or feelings.
Actual damages include injury to reputation, mental suffering, embarrassment and humiliation which must be established by proof and evidence. Mental anguish and suffering is a proper element of damage in an action for libel or slander.
Exemplary & Punitive Damages / Demand for Retraction: MCL 600.2911(b) Exemplary and punitive damages shall not be recovered in actions for libel unless the plaintiff, before instituting his or her action, gives notice to the defendant to publish a retraction and allows a reasonable time to do so, and proof of the publication or correction shall be admissible in evidence under a denial on the question of the good faith of the defendant, and in mitigation and reduction of exemplary or punitive damages. For libel based on a radio or television broadcast, the retraction shall be made in the same manner and at the same time of the day as the original libel; for libel based on a publication, the retraction shall be published in the same size type, in the same editions and as far as practicable, in substantially the same position as the original libel; and for other libel, the retraction shall be published or communicated in substantially the same manner as the original libel.
Exemplary and punitive damages can be awarded after a demand for retraction is ignored. Contact a defamation attorney for more information.