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Defamation of Character

Defamation of character involves written or spoken harm to a person or organization's reputation. Defamation of character includes libel and slander. Libel is written defamation of character. Slander is spoken defamation of character.

 

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Defamation of character is the general term used to describe both libel and slander under one umbrella. The best defense from being convicted of defamation of character is "truth" according to the courts.

The concept of truth is mutually exclusive to defaming one's character since "truth" and "character" go hand-in-hand. The second component of defamation of character, according to most courts and jurisdictions, is the idea of "malice" on the part of the alleged defamer.

If the alleged defamer spoke or wrote fallacy instead of fact, fiction and falsehood instead of commonly accepted evidence, then this in and of itself is not defaming without malice. Malice aforethought is a legal term usually used to convict someone of first-degree murder. It means someone had cognizant intent before committing a crime. With defamation of character, this kind of malice must be proven as well.

According to a definition in die.net, "Malice is a stronger word than malevolence, which may imply only a desire that evil may befall another, while malice desires, and perhaps intends, to bring it about. Malignity is intense and deep-seated malice. It implies a natural delight in hating and wronging others. One who is malignant must be both malevolent and malicious; but a man may be malicious without being malignant."

When can defamation of character be malicious and not be considered defaming? If malicious and false statements are made towards an unidentifiable group of people or organization it cannot be considered defaming. For instance, saying "the flatulent cows are ruining the ozone" may be false, inflammatory and ill-willed toward the cows but no cow has been singled out as an identifiable victim. The same can be said of the statement, "All telemarketers are criminals!" Because a company or person has not been specified in this statement, the statement cannot be considered defamation of character.

Insults and epithets are also not considered to be defamation of character. Instead these are considered to be angry outbursts of emotion with no real content other than to show extreme dislike. Opinion is also not considered to be defamatory as long is it is clear that it is one's opinion which is being asserted and cannot be mistaken for an assertion of fact.

For those who believe they have been a victim of defamation of character, you can sue for both actual and punitive damages. The court or the jury can assess damages in such cases.

For instance, a person may wish to sue one of the credit bureaus for negligent and willful violations in a credit repair situation. Being turned down for credit because of false information on the credit reports can result in mental anguish and humiliation. Actual damages of this type can occur even if not out-of-pocket expenses are incurred. This happened in United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, Case No. 91-7142, John STEVENSON vs. TRW, April 1, 1993. Mr. Stevenson was awarded $30,000 in actual damages, $100,000 in punitive damages and $20,700 in attorney's fees.

Defamation of character cases can be won, especially if good records are kept and actual damages can be assessed.

See Slander Laws

See Definition of Libel

Extra

For more information on our blog see defamation of character

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

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