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Message #723 Libel and slander

mp3 #723 Libel and Slander (mp3 file)

If anyone has ever written or said anything about you which you believe was offensive, you may have wondered if you could sue that person for libel or slander, which are the two kinds of defamation. A libelous statement is a false writing, picture, or other visual representation which exposes you to contempt, hatred or ridicule, causes you to be shunned or avoided, or tends to injure you in your occupation. Slanderous statements are similar false statements, but slander involves oral communications and communications by radio and television.

Examples of the most common types of defamatory statements are the following:

(l) Statements which charge a person with having committed a crime;

(2) Statements which impute the presence of an infectious or loathsome disease;

(3) Statements which injure a person in respect to his office, trade or business;

                    (4) Statements which impute a man’s sexual impotence, or a woman's lack of sexual chastity.

Even if the statement fits into one of the above categories, it is not defamatory if the statement is true. Truth is always a defense in defamation lawsuits.

There are also other defenses in defamation lawsuits. A particular statement may be "privileged," that is, the law allows certain statements to be made without them being classified as defamatory. For example, statements made by a public officer in the performance of his official duty are privileged. Certain other communications may be privileged, but there are too many rules regarding privileges and they are too complex to be stated in the short length of this message. An attorney can help you with your particular case.

False and malicious statements --- that is, statements made with a state of mind arising from ill will or hatred, are more often held to be defamatory than false statements which are not malicious. However, if the statement is true, there is still no defamation, regardless of what the speaker's state of mind was. Some privileges also apply to malicious statements.

A defamation case is a particularly difficult kind of lawsuit to win. The first amendment to the United States Constitution protects freedom of speech, and the courts have set forth a complicated set of rules that are used to determine whether particular types of statements are protected by the first amendment, regardless of whether they are true or false.

If you believe you have been defamed by a newspaper or radio broadcast, one way to protect your rights is to demand a retraction. You must serve a written notice upon the publisher demanding retraction within twenty days after you first learn of the publication or broadcast. There are specific requirements regarding the content of this notice. If you believe you have been defamed by a newspaper or radio broadcast, you should immediately contact an attorney.

It is often difficult to measure the damages a person has suffered when he has been defamed. The methods used to determine damages are extremely complex. It is sufficient to note that proving you have been damaged and calculating the amount of recovery you are entitled to are often the most difficult parts of a defamation lawsuit.

You must begin your lawsuit within one year of the time the defamatory statement is made. If you do not do so, the statute of limitations will prevent you from bringing the lawsuit.

As stated before, defamation actions have special and technical rules. An attorney can help you handle your case. If you do not have an attorney, you should consult your local lawyer referral service to find an attorney for your case.

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