Defamation is the act of making a false claim that gives a negative image while implying it to be fact. Often referred to as defamation of character, it can be broken down into two categories, slander and libel. Slander refers to a verbal statement while libel is limited to written words and images. Widespread use of the Internet through blogs and message boards gives rise to many lawsuits.
- Skill level:
Other People Are Reading
Prepare information that backs up your claim of libel or slander. The burden of proof belongs to you, the plaintiff, so be prepared to show that the defendant not only made a false statement but also made it in the presence of someone other than yourself, and that it was harmful to your reputation.
Choose a lawyer that best represents your interests. Although the presence of a lawyer is generally optional, it is best to find a qualified individual that understands tort law and has knowledge in the field of defamation lawsuits.
File your complaint and pay the required fees. You can file either by mail or in person and checks are usually accepted. Be sure to retain a copy of all documents for your own records.
Serve papers to the defendant within the amount of time allowed by the court. Arrange for the sheriff's office or a private process server to serve the summons for you. The defendant then has a set amount of time in which to respond.
Exchange information between parties. Each side is required to disclose evidence and statements they will use to argue their case in court. The purpose of discovery is to eliminate surprises in court as well as bring about a pre-trial resolution, such as dropping the lawsuit or settling out of court.
Go to court on the specified date of trial. If unable to reach a resolution beforehand, then a trial by jury or bench trial before only a judge will proceed, ultimately resulting in a judgment for either plaintiff or defendant.
Tips and warnings
- If the judgment reached is undesirable in anyway, both parties have a limited amount of time to file an appeal. An undesirable judgment includes not only a judgment in favor of the defendant, but also one that includes the payment of damages in a sum lower than thought appropriate.