Defamation is a tort that occurs when someone publishes (orally or in writing) false and harmful statements about another person or business. It can be ruinous to the reputation and cause serious damages to individuals and businesses. Defamation may be spoken (slander) or written (libel). The advent and evolution of the internet and social media to publish defamatory statements. Our defamation attorneys have prosecuted and defended against defamation claims involving individuals and businesses.
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.
This cause of action is vastly misunderstood. 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.
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…”
Defamation is a very complex, factually dependent area of law that should be handled expertly with absolute care. We vigorously litigate these cases to protect our clients’ interests and reputations. If you believe you have been defamed or are being accused of defamation, contact our defamation attorneys for a complimentary consultation.