Understanding defamation law is absolutely necessary before pursuing a defamation suit against a person or an entity. Without a background in law, however, it can be difficult to understand “legal speak” and it’s inferences. Fortunately, an experienced and reputable defamation attorney can help you to broaden your understanding of defamation law in terms that you will understand. In fact today, defamation attorney Matthew Weidner is going to explain some of the basics.
Defamation Law: What Does the Law Say About Personal Defamation?
We have posted a number of articles on the topic of defamation here in the past, but in case you missed those or if you need a quick refresher, lets’ recap exactly what “defamation” means.
The definition of “defamation” varies depending on which state you reside in. Since Weidner Law is located in Florida, that is the state on which we will base the following information. If you do not currently live in Florida and would like to find out more about defamation in your state, we recommend turning to a local defamation attorney for help.
What is Defamation?
In the state of Florida defamation is defined as a “false statement of fact, communicated to a third party, which is meant to hurt the plaintiff’s reputation or economic well-being.” So, it is an untrue statement (read: lie) that is being passed off as being true (the person making the defamatory statement is telling people or insinuating that the statement is true) and they are doing this with the intent to ruin your reputation or your financial standing/future.
There are two categories of defamation – slander, and libel.
Slander is a defamatory statement that is spoken.
Libel is a defamatory statement that is written, printed, or recorded, for example, on a TV show, in a magazine publication, on a website, or via e-mail.
Why Do People Defame Others?
There may be many reasons for someone wanting to defame you and this reason is unique to each case. For example, you may be a competing business in a small area. By defaming you, your competitor hopes that your customers will come to them for business and that you will be driven out of business.
In almost all cases of defamation, whatever the exact reason for the defamation, there is a drive for personal gain. It could be financially-based as mentioned above, or it could be revenge-based…the list of possibilities really is endless.
What Does Florida Law Say About Defamation?
The Burden of Proof
The burden of proof is on the person who is being defamed meaning that if you have been the victim of defamation, you must prove that what was done to you counts as defamation. This involves the following:
- Being able to prove that a false statement concerning you or your company was made;
- Being able to prove that there was an unprivileged publication of the statement to a third party;
- Being able to prove that there was negligence or intentional conduct on the part of the author of the statement;
- Being able to prove that there were actual damages.
The most difficult aspect of this is proving that there are actual damages as a result of the defamation.
“Per Se Defamation”
There are some instances in which Florida law deems a statement to be so damaging that you are not required to prove damages. The damages are inherent to the statement. This type of defamation is referred to as “per se defamation”. Examples of “per se defamation” include:
- A statement that alleges that a person has committed an infamous crime;
- A statement that alleges that a person has an infectious disease (or mental illness);
- A statement that subjects a person to hatred, distrust, ridicule, contempt or disgrace; or
- A statement that injures a person in his trade or profession.
Are You a Public or Private Citizen?
Another aspect that influences defamation cases is whether you are a public or a private citizen. Why does this matter? Because a public figure by nature of being a public figure has no reasonable expectation of privacy. This means that in order to prove defamation, there is more required of a public figure than there is of a private individual.
So, if you are a public figure, in addition to proving negligence, you must also show that there was actual malice behind the defamation as well.
The Importance of a Defamation Attorney
Although it may seem simple to deal with a defamation case, there is much more involved than simply sharing what was published or said. In order to prove your case in a court of law, you must be able to intelligibly argue your case and provide evidence that will stand up in court. An experienced defamation attorney can help you to establish your case and to argue it in court.
Are You Looking For a Defamation Lawyer?
If you live in or around the St. Pete/Tampa area, Weidner Law can help! Admitted to the Florida Bar in 1999, attorney Matt Weidner has been providing legal services to St. Pete and the surrounding areas for twenty years. To find out how attorney Weidner can help you, just call Weidner Law today at 727-954-8752!