The experienced defamation attorneys here at Revision Legal do not recommend that you file a defamation lawsuit without an attorney. Defamation litigation and the legal processes involved are complex. At minimum, we recommend that you give us a call for a consultation. Our numbers are: 231-714-0100 or 855-473-8474. However, we recognize that some feel that they cannot afford a defamation lawyer or that they can proceed on their own. As such, we provide this basic primer on how to sue for defamation without a lawyer. As an initial note, keep in mind that, if you find yourself overwhelmed, you can still hire a good defamation lawyer later in the case after proceedings have been filed.
How to Start a Defamation Case
All complex litigation begins with the filing of a court paper called a “Complaint.” The Complaint must be properly formatted per the local rules of the court where you are going to file it and the proper fees must be paid. This involves numbered paragraphs and setting out the basic information about the person (or business) and the defamation. The Complaint must also identify — at least generally — the facts that set out the legal elements for defamation. The person suing is called the “plaintiff” and those who are being sued are called the “defendants.” These legal elements vary from State to State, so you will need to use the elements from your state. But, generally, the elements are these:
- At least one false statement was made by the defendant
- The false statement was published to third parties
- The false statement was made negligently, or with reckless disregard for the truth or with intent to harm
- The false statement caused injury to the person
Before you draft the Complaint, you must identify and locate the person (or business) that committed the defamation. This is legally required since the Complaint must be delivered to each defendant. Without delivery of the Complaint, the case cannot proceed against that defendant. If you do not know the person’s name or where they live, matters will get complicated. This is a common problem with defamation that occurs on the internet by anonymous posters or bloggers. Sometimes you can sue an “Unknown” person or business and then ask the court to help you identify and locate the defamer. But, again, this can be difficult and complicated.
Once the Complaint is delivered to the defendant (or defendants), then the case will proceed. The defendant(s) will have an opportunity to file what is called an “Answer.” The Answer will also have certain formatting requirements and will, generally, be a response to your Complaint. Occasionally, the Answer contains a Counter-Complaint to which you will be able to respond. When the defendant’s Answer is filed, you will learn whether they have hired an attorney. Frankly, if the “other side” hire an attorney to defend the case, it is time for you to hire an attorney. Skilled legal representation is directly related to success in complex litigation.
At some point, there will be at least one hearing before the judge to set a schedule for the case. Additional hearings will be set as the case proceeds.
What Happens Next?
After the initial phase, the case will progress as follows:
- Motion practice phase where parties can ask for dismissal or other court action
- Discovery — the parties will exchange information through answering written question, reviewing relevant documents and taking oral deposition
- Summary judgment phase — where the court is asked to resolve the case without a trial
- Pre-trial phase
Contact the Defamation Attorneys at Revision Legal For more information, contact the experienced Defamation Lawyers at Revision Legal. You can contact us through the form on this page or call (855) 473-8474.