Defamation can be ruinous to the reputation of individuals and businesses alike. It can cause serious damages. But defamation lawsuits also can be abused and wielded to suppress protected speech or to harass the defendants. Our experienced attorneys have helped individual and business clients defend against defamation lawsuits.

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Especially in this era of social media usage, defamation is one of the most misunderstood legal concepts.

Defamation occurs when someone publishes (verbally or in writing) a false statement that harms another person or business. Verbal defamation is called slander while written defamation is called libel. Defamation lawsuits generally require a plaintiff to prove: (1) an intentionally or negligently false statement (2) was published or communicate to a third party and (3) it damaged the plaintiff.

One of the most common misconceptions is that the right to free speech offers absolute protection against defamation. This right and the others enumerated in the Bill of Rights only protects individuals from state or government action. There is no private right to absolute free speech. Truth, however, is an absolute defense to defamation. True statements cannot be defamatory. Similarly, if the plaintiff cannot prove objective truth or falsity of a statement, it cannot be defamatory. Opinion speech also can be protected, but this is not absolute. If the opinion implies it is based on defamatory facts, it still may constitute defamation. Simply qualifying a defamatory statement with, “it is my opinion that…” will not protect the statement against a defamation claim.

Numerous other privileges exist, including:

  • judicial proceedings;
  • substantial truth;
  • fair comment;
  • fair report;
  • wire service

Under Arizona law, the one-year statute of limitations also may provide a defense to defamation claims.

Below are some resources that further detail the elements of and defenses to defamation, including notable recent appellate decisions and insights from our team of attorneys.

If you have any questions about defamation, contact us for a free consultation with an experienced attorney.


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