Understanding the State of Pennsylvania Laws and the Elements of a Defamation Case
Defamation is a crime that occurs when someone makes false and harmful statements about another individual. There are two types of defamation, “libel”, typically referring to a statement that is in writing or that has been published online, and “slander”, which is typically orated. In order to establish a defamation case, the libel or slander must have been made public in some manner, resulting in harm to the subject’s reputation, future opportunities, and even physical or mental health.
When responding to this crime, many choose to file a “cease and desist” letter, instructing the perpetrator who is making injurious claims to stop before further legal action is taken. Learn more about defamation and how to understand the State of Pennsylvania’s particular laws, below.
How to Define Defamation in Pennsylvania Law?
Recognizing Slander Versus Libel
As mentioned previously, the two elements of defamation are slander and libel:
- Libel is also distinguished by the fact that it leaves a permanent record, like an email, radio or TV broadcast, newspaper article, or website posting
- Slander does not typically leave a permanent record and can be as simple as a statement or a gesture
Identifying and capitalizing on the type of defamation that occurred is the first step to proving any defamation claim, and establishing whether you are eligible to send a cease and desist letter.
What is Not Defamation?
Although proving defamation seems like an easy and clear process, different legal loopholes prevent claims from being identified as slander or libel:
- A statement of opinion is not defamatory, as defamation must be proven true or false.
Exercising Your Freedom of Speech
- Defamation is not illegal by legal terms. Defamation is a pretense of the legal system to pay damages to people who have been harmed by freedom of speech.
False Light is Different From Defamation
- A false light claim comes to fruition when a fake statement about an individual is published, with the implication that the statement is true when it is false.
Disparagement is Also Different from Defamation, Slander, and Libel
- Disparagement aims to cover the financial and economic interests of the plaintiff or their products.
The State of Pennsylvania and Online Defamation
It is feasible to prove online defamation, but it is also extremely difficult to decide to pursue legal action. In Pennsylvania, any individual who harasses another person through electronics may be guilty of a crime.
Punitive Damages when electronic communication methods are used to:
- Online Harassment is charged when the defendant communicated with the victim in a threatening manner to alarm or annoy them — this crime is a third degree misdemeanor, resulting in a fine of up to $2,500 dollars or a maximum of one year in jail
- Stalking is a first degree misdemeanor, including a maximum sentence of up to 5 years in prison, and $10,000 in damages
Pennsylvania and Defamation
- Pennsylvania defines its “course of conduct” as one or more acts including surveillance, threats, or harassing statements towards a victim
- “Electronic communication” is defined as communication that happens through a cell phone, voicemail, email, text, instant messaging, or any other type of computerized correspondence
- “Harassment” is recognized as knowing and wilfully acting against a specific person to alarm, torment, or terrorize them
Suing for Defamation of Character in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, the law states that the elements of a defamation claim are:
|An Untrue Statement||A false statement was made about the plaintiff|
|An Unrequited Publication||Something was published through a third party, and this was not permitted|
|A Negligent Fault||The fault on behalf of the defendant counted as negligence|
|Significant Damages||The publication caused serious harm|
Examples of Defamation Per Se in the State of Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, particular statements are valid defamation per se, so egregious that they will always be considered defamation and will be always assumed to have incurred harm:
- Saying that the plaintiff has committed a crime
- Saying that the plaintiff has a disease
- Saying that the plaintiff is unable to perform or lacks integrity with relation to work
- Attributing the plaintiff to a lack of general ability, otherwise harming them professionally
- Accusing the plaintiff of being or engaging in adultery
Is It Viable To Write A Cease and Desist Letter?
- To preface, writing a cease and desist letter is a detailed process that can discredit your case, if not done properly
- If you are unable to legally prove the damages you’ve suffered, outline all components of corresponding evidence from a legal point of view, and compose a legally sound letter, you run the risk of your letter being thrown out and even being unsuccessful if you go to court
- In addition to this, some lawyers who are capable of drafting cease and desist letters will charge an exorbitant amount of money for even responding to you and your inquiries!
Discover DoNotPay: Draft a Cease and Desist Letter in Minutes!
DoNotPay is a simple and convenient solution! The Cease and Desist letter DoNotPay outlines will detail the information about the case, demand retraction, warn against future statements, and will order that the accused abides by Pennsylvania state statutes.
All you need to do is:
1. Search Defamation on DoNotPay.
2. Tell us about your situation:
- Were the statements slander or libel?
- What were the statements?
- Why are they false or misleading?
- What consequences have you suffered as a result of these statements?
3. Based on your location, DoNotPay will immediately generate a formal demand letter on your behalf, with the most relevant state legislation regarding defamation.
That’s it! You can expect a meticulously written cease and desist letter to your cause, in an instant!
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