You are probably familiar with the legal concept: defamation of character. Generally put, defamation is when a person makes a false statement about another person to a third party. Libel and slander are both forms of defamation. Libel is when the false statement is written and slander is when the false statement is made orally. There is more required to prove defamation than just proving that the defendant made a false written or oral statement, however.
In order to prove defamation a plaintiff will need to show that the defendant made a false statement about the plaintiff, it was published, and the plaintiff was injured as a result. By published we do not mean that it needs to be a headline in the Inland Empire Weekly; published simply means that a third party received the false statement and understood the meaning of the false statement and understood it was related to the plaintiff. As for injury, unless it is a case of libel per se, the plaintiff must be able to show that he or she sustained actual damages such as losing business clients or losing his or her employment.
Libel per se
In California, a case of libel per se means that injury is presumed in certain circumstances and therefore, the plaintiff does not need to prove actual damages. The following types of false statements are considered libel per se.
The defendant falsely accused the plaintiff of being a criminal.
The defendant said that the plaintiff has an infectious, loathsome, or contagious disease.
A defendant’s statement that attacks the plaintiff’s professional competence or professional character.
False statements made about the plaintiff’s impotence or sexual promiscuity.
Defamation harm commonly relates to
Hurt reputation – often shown in professional reputation harm such as losing clients or detracting potential clients or causing your employer to lose faith in your competence or character.
Financial harm – including losing business and any amount you spend in order to repair your reputation.
Mental or physical harm – such as anxiety, depression, humiliation, shame, and suicidal contemplations.
Depending on the circumstances, recoverable damages in California defamation law may include:
General damages means damages for harm to reputation, or for the plaintiff’s mortification, shame, or hurt feelings due to the defamatory statements.
Special damages means damages that the plaintiff can prove he or she suffered related to property, business, trade, profession, or occupation including monetary amounts the plaintiff can show that he or she spent due to the defamation.
Exemplary (punitive) damages mean damages that may be awarded at the judge or jury’s discretion in the case of actual malice in order to make an example of and punish the defendant and his/her conduct.
If you have been injured due to someone’s false statements that were made about you to a third party, our Inland Empire defamation attorneys at The Rager Law Firm will meet with you to discuss the facts of your case and injuries sustained. Our defamation team will advocate on your behalf until you receive the compensation that you deserve.
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