What Must a Plaintiff Prove to Win a Defamation Case

/ April 22, 2024

What Must a Plaintiff Prove to Win a Defamation Case?

Defamation encompasses both slander and libel, with slander typically involving false spoken statements that harm someone’s reputation, while libel involves false written statements. Whether a statement qualifies as slander or libel depends on the circumstances and the parties involved. To succeed in a defamation lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant communicated a false and damaging statement about them to a third party. 

For instance, an objectionable statement sent via email to the plaintiff’s coworker may be considered libelous. The plaintiff usually needs to demonstrate that the communication was either intentional or negligent. Additionally, a plaintiff can file a libel suit if they repeat the defamatory statement themselves, known as self-publication. This can happen, for example, when discussing false allegations made by a previous employer during a job interview.

Before pursuing a libel or slander case, it’s crucial for the plaintiff to determine the truthfulness of the statement. Regardless of how damaging or inappropriate a statement may be, if it’s true, the plaintiff’s case will likely not succeed.

Public figures, such as politicians, face additional challenges in proving libel or slander. In addition to meeting the standard elements of the tort, public figure plaintiffs must show that the defendant either knew the statement was false or acted recklessly regarding its truthfulness. Newspapers may avoid liability for libel by simply reporting false statements as long as they had no reason to doubt the statement’s accuracy when it was published.

Furthermore, plaintiffs often need to demonstrate economic harm to recover damages in a defamation suit. This may require showing a loss of business due to the defamation. However, certain statements, such as those alleging sexual misconduct or criminal behavior, are inherently damaging and may not require proof of economic loss to seek compensation.

Ready to pursue justice for defamation? Contact Brewer Law Firm today for expert legal guidance in Charleston, SC.

Disclaimer: This blog provides general information and is not intended as legal advice. Always consult a licensed attorney for guidance on specific legal matters.