WHAT IS YOUR REPUTATION WORTH
Defamation can be ruinous to the reputation and cause serious damages to individuals and businesses. But it is also an area of the law often misunderstood in frivolous lawsuits. Contact our attorneys for a free case evaluation.
FAST FACTS ABOUT DEFAMATION
Defamation is a tort that occurs when someone publishes (orally or in writing) false and harmful statements about another person or business. Spoken defamation is known as slander while written defamation is called libel. The advent and evolution of the internet and social media have led to increased defamation litigation.
Defamation claims generally require a plaintiff to prove: (1) an intentionally or negligently false statement (2) was published or communicated to a third party and (3) damages resulted. When certain false statements are made, damages may be presumed under the idea of defamation per se. Examples of defamation per se include:
- Allegations that one has a contagious or venereal disease, or that a woman is promiscuous;
- Allegations that injure a person in his profession, trade, or business; or
- Allegations that imply or impute the commission of a crime involving moral turpitude.
Many people often believe that “free speech” protects against defamation. This Constitutional right, like the others in the Bill of Rights, typically protects only against state or government action. Generally speaking, there is no private right to free speech. But there are several absolute and qualified defenses against defamation, particularly when the plaintiff is a public figure or has achieved status as a limited purpose public figure. The best defense is truth because true statements cannot be defamatory. Opinion speech may be protected, but not if it implies certain facts upon which the opinion is based. In other words, an individual is not insulated against defamation simply by beginning a defamatory remark with a qualifier like, “In my opinion…”
Other examples of qualified privileges, include:
- substantial truth;
- fair comment;
- fair report;
- wire service
Again, the truth is an absolute defense to defamation, though it still can implicate other torts, such as false light invasion of privacy. Defendants also may rely on the statute of limitations, typically one year from publication, as a defense.
Arizona law recognizes different categories of damages for defamation, including:
- monetary loss;
- reputational loss;
- emotional distress;
- humiliation; and, in certain cases,
- punitive damages