What Are The Required Components of Defamation?
Defamation Attorney Serving San Diego, Los Angeles and California
Libel and Slander are defined in the California Civil Code. To show defamation in California, a person must prove certain core aspects of the law or the claim will fail. Schedule a confidential consultation with an attorney who has over 30 years of experience.
A. Is the statement defamatory?
The disputed statement must be defamatory, but what does that mean? In general, the word “defamatory” is defined as any statement that tends to lower the reputation of a person in the community, subject that individual to contempt, ridicule, or obloquy, and/or causes the person to be shunned or avoided. For example, suppose a newspaper reports that a person has AIDS. Is that defamatory? The answer depends on the community. In most places in California the statement would be defamatory. In medical teaching hospitals, however, and in AIDS research facilities, the statement arguably would not be found to be defamatory.
B. Is there a statement of fact?
There must be a statement of fact that can be proved or disproved for a comment to rise to the level of defamation. “I think Mr. Jones is an alcoholic.” This simple statement can be construed as either a statement of fact, or as an opinion. Note: The general rule is that if someone makes a statement as an opinion, it is just that, and not defamatory. At the same time, many people mistakenly believe there can be no defamation in this scenario. In recent years, however, the law has evolved to provide additional protections against defamatory comments that are couched in the form of an opinion. This is a very interesting trend in the law.
C. Falsity –
If a statement turns out to be true, it will not be found defamatory. Truth is an absolute defense.
D. “Of and Concerning” –
Defamation must be directed at a specific identifiable person or company. The party defamed might, for example, be referred to only as Vice-President of XYZ Corp. If there is only one Vice-President of that company, the person defamed is readily identifiable.
E. Publication –
the statement, whether libel or slander, must be “published,” meaning it is conveyed to at least one other person. This can take the form of an internet posting, a blog, magazine or newspaper article, or can occur as verbal communication between two or more parties. This can occur during a public conversation, an interview, commentary, or in a seemingly private setting such as a hushed conversation at a cocktail party.
F. Causing Harm –
If you are shunned, avoided, subject to ridicule or contempt, or if your social standing within a community has been damaged, you have suffered “harm”. A key element of any defamation action is to identify and quantify “harm”. Although frequently unnecessary, in some cases expert testimony can help to establish the existence and extent of harm.
G. Damages –
In cases of libel and slander per se damages are presumed. You can also show “special damages” such as lost wages or revenue.
Contact an Experienced and Proven Los Angeles and San Diego Litigation and Defamation Attorney
If you believe someone has defamed you, either in the form of slander or libel I invite you to contact my office to schedule an appointment, or call 760-295-1311 to speak with me personally. If you have been the victim of defamation, we can work together to set things right.