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What is Defamation?

Defamation includes libel and slander. A defamatory statement is when a false statement of fact about a private person or public person is communicated to a publication or third party either in negligence or with intent. This false statement of fact must cause some sort of damage or injury to the person it was directed toward to fall under the definition of defamation. This means that for a statement to be defamatory, the statement must hold the subject to hatred, ridicule, contempt, disgrace or scorn in the eyes of a respectable part of the community. This includes employers, clients, peers, community groups and leaders, or any other segment of the community or general population that causes damage and injury to the subject of the false statement.

A defamatory statement is a false statement of fact, NOT an opinion. For example, stating, “I think my coworker is a moron,” is an opinion. Stating, “My coworker lost the company $1,000.00 last week from his incompetency” is defamation because it is presented as a statement of fact. Even qualifying the latter statement with “I think…” falls under the definition of slander because it clearly implies that a crime may have been committed by the subject of that statement.

Another important definitional aspect of a defamation is that the false statement of fact must be made to a third party. A person cannot make a defamatory statement to her/himself, or to the subject of the false statement. The broad reputation of the subject must be at stake.

The third important definitional aspect of defamation has to do with the actions and intent of the person who made the false statement of fact to a third party. Just because someone made a defamatory statement that caused harm to the subject of the statement does not mean that they committed a crime of defamation.

For a statement to be defamatory, the person making the statement must have known that the statement was false, made the false statement of fact with reckless disregard of whether or not the statement was true or false, or simply failed to find out whether the fact was true or false before making the statement to a third party. The false statement must have been made intentionally, recklessly or negligently. If the subject is a public individual, a celebrity, politician, etc., the Defendant must only have either acted intentionally or recklessly. Negligence in this case does not fit the bill for defamation.

Some examples of defamatory statements include:

  • Subject has committed a crime or acted immorally.
  • Subject is unqualified for his or her profession.
  • Subject has a terrible, infectious disease or other serious health condition.

Written defamation is libel, whereas oral defamation is slander.

If you are the victim of defamation, you are entitled to damages for injuries resulting from the defamatory statement. This includes pain and suffering, impairment to community standing and reputation, personal humiliation and lost earnings and earning potential. We are ready to help you at The Law Offices of Gary M. Zeidwig. Use our free evaluation form to contact us, or you can send an email at gz@zeidwiglaw.com or give us a call at (954) 523-3993 so we can set up a meeting to go over your case and give you the best advice and representation. Gary Zeidwig is an award-winning trial attorney who has been involved in winning millions of dollars in personal injury compensation for his clients.

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