Defaming a business or a person will often result in the filing of a defamation lawsuit. But that does not mean that the person bringing the lawsuit will win. Depending on the facts of the case, a serious and successful defense to a defamation lawsuit can be mounted. You will, of course, need to hire experienced and courtroom-proven defamation defense attorneys like the ones here at Revision Legal. Call us at 231-714-0100. We handle cases across the country.
What is defamation?
Defamation can be either written or verbal. The first is called libel, and the second is called slander. In general, for either type of defamation, the person suing — called the “plaintiff” — must prove the following legal elements:
- A false statement was made — either in writing or verbally
- The statement was not privileged in any way
- Made with at least negligence with respect to the truth or falsity of the statement
- The statement was published by the maker of the statement to at least one third party
- The false statement injured the “target” of the statement in some way, like damaging their reputation, injuring them in their trade/occupation, etc.
For some types of defamation, the final element need not be proven. These are called per se defamatory statements. These per se statements include false statements charging a person/business with a crime, impugning a person’s chastity, suggesting a person is diseased, and more.
In addition, for public figures, there is an additional legal element that must be shown: either a knowingly false statement or a statement made with reckless disregard for the truth.
What are Some Defenses to a Defamation Lawsuit?
From the foregoing, we can see several potential legal defenses to a defamation lawsuit. First, as many know, “truth is an absolute defense.” Thus, if it can be shown that the statement was not false, then such will be a successful legal defense.
Second, the statement that is alleged to be false must be a statement of fact. In general, this means that the statement must be a statement that can be verified as true or false. Consequently, statements of opinion and statements that are a form of “puffery” will not constitute defamation. Likewise, mistake and/or materiality can sometimes be a viable defense.
Third, some statements are privileged which means that no defamation lawsuit can be filed with respect to those statements. Examples include statements made in court filings and statements that are authorized and approved by the “target.”
Fourth, while rare, it is sometimes possible to defend a defamation case on the basis of lack of publication. For example, if you send a letter only to the “target,” that is not defamation since there was no publication to a third party. It is still not defamation even if the target shares the letter with others. The publication must be made by the person making the alleged false statement.
Fifth, depending on the applicable law, retraction and/or correction can be a legal defense.
Sixth, if the case involves a public figure, then lack of malice is generally a method of successfully defending against defamation. In fact, public figures find it very difficult under U.S. law to win defamation cases because knowledge or reckless disregard is difficult to prove.
Finally, note that a defense based on the lack of damage or injury is almost never successful. Where damages are not obvious, it is common for the plaintiff to ask for “nominal” damages. Such “nominal” damages might only be $10, but that is enough for the plaintiff to “win.” And in most jurisdictions, if the plaintiff is successful, the plaintiff can be awarded their attorneys’ fees (which can be substantial).
Contact Revision Legal
For more information, call the experienced Defamation Defense Team at Revision Legal today for assistance. You can contact us through the form on this page or call (855) 473-8474.