Atlanta Defamation Lawyers
Defamation - Libel and Slander
Defamation is a false statement of fact published or communicated to another person that causes injury to reputation. Defamation that is in written or published form is generally referenced as libel, while defamation that is spoken is generally referenced as slander. A person or a company that defames another person or company may be held liable for the resultant damages. Unless the defamation constitutes defamation per se (explained below), the harmed party must prove that the statement has caused actual harm.
A disparaging statement, or a statement that simply cannot be proven to be either true of false (such as an opinion), is not defamatory.
Statutes of limitation for defamation claims are often shorter than statutes of limitation for injury and breach of contract claims. Some states have statutes of limitation which bar such claims if suit is not filed within one year from the date of the defamation. There are nuances that affect when the defamation occurs, particularly when the defamatory statements are published.
In any claim for defamation, truth is an absolute defense. If the words spoken or published are true, whether they are harmful, typically no valid claim for defamation exists.
Some types of communication are so obviously harmful, that they are categorized as defamation per se. The classic example of defamation per se is a communication that imputes or accuses another of committing a crime.
If defamation per se exists, damages will be presumed to have flowed from such communication, and the plaintiff may be relieved of having to show that the communication caused actual harm.
Finally, the standard for proof of defamation claims is different for people who are public figures. Public figures, which can include politicians or others who have injected themselves into the public eye, have to prove, in addition to the elements of defamation, that the defendant acted with “actual malice.” In essence, this means that the plaintiff in such a case must prove that the defendant either made the statement knowing that it was false, or made the statement with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not. This is a higher burden of proof than imposed upon individuals who are not considered to be public figures.