Have I been defamed?
Defamation comes either in the form of libel (written) or slander (oral). For someone to have defamed you, the potential defendant must have:
- Created a false and defamatory statement concerning you;
- Published that false and defamatory statement to you without privilege to do so;
- At least in a negligent manner; and,
- The publication must have caused you to suffer harm, unless the defamatory statement falls within a special category of defamation where no harm need be proven.
Some key points here:
- There must be a publication (communication) that was understood by a third personas a publication.
- There are several defenses, some of which are outlined here:
- Absolute Privilege – Statements before an administrative body such as a zoning board are not absolutely privileged A municipal official’s comments made before a board of selectmen are not privileged
- Constitutional Privilege – The constitution prohibits a public official from recovering damages for defamatory falsehood relating to his official conduct unless he proves that the statement was made with “actual malice,” that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not. Must prove actual malice by clear and convincing evidence Where malice is said to consist of reckless disregard, there must be proof to a high degree of awareness of probable falsity
- Damages will depend on the type of defamation, whether it was slander per se, or not.