Defamation of character is a catchall term that includes accusations of slander (spoken derogatory comments) or libel (written derogatory comments). Because defamation of character requires a showing of harm and because many defenses can be raised to a defamation claim, defamation of character can be difficult to prove. The following tips show the elements necessary to prove defamation of character.
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Show that there was a false statement made about you. Generally, to prove defamation of character, you must show that someone made a statement of fact about you and that statement was untrue and not privileged.
Establish that the statement was relayed to a third party. It isn't enough that the untrue statement was said, it must also have been conveyed or published to others and understood to be about you. Public figures seeking to prove defamation of character must also show that the false statement was made with actual malice.
Put on evidence showing that the statement caused you harm. To prove defamation of character, you must show that the statement exposed you to hatred, ridicule, contempt, or caused injury to you in your occupation.
Recognize the defenses to a defamation of character suit. Truth is an absolute defense to a defamation action. Privileged statements, such as those made in court, are also protected. Likewise, innocent dissemination of the statement and consent to the statement being made are also defenses.
Tips and warnings
- Defamation of character laws vary from state to state. You should consult an attorney experienced in defamation issues to advise you on the laws relevant to your particular claim.