Defamation of Character in Texas
Texas defamation laws consider libel and slander lawsuits as civil cases. Also, there are considerations in the statute of limitations to take note of when filing a defamation claim. In this article, we will discover what constitutes defamation of character under Texas laws and what you can do to protect your reputation from defamatory statements.
What is Defamation of Character?
Under Texas law, defamation of character occurs when an individual or business speaks or writes falsely about another resulting in damages. Since defamation is a civil lawsuit in Texas, plaintiffs can sue for financial damages but not be able to ask the court to punish the defendant with fines or imprisonment. There are two forms of defamation:
|Libel is written defamation that is published through social media posts, news articles, magazines, and online print.||Slander is spoken defamation that is published in radio and TV shows, speeches, and any other impermanent forms of communication.|
In addition to libel vs slander, Texas also recognizes another form of defamation which is business disparagement. This occurs when a party trash-talks a business with the intent to discourage others from dealing with them.
Statute of Limitations for Defamation Lawsuits in Texas
According to the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, plaintiffs have one year to file a defamation lawsuit in Texas. The date of the deadline is based on the date when the defamatory statement was first published. Even if the statement is repeated, shared, or republished, it doesn’t reset the one-year timeline. However, some specific situations can postpone the deadline in Texas potentially extending the one-year statute of limitations. These situations include:
- The defendant is not present within the state of Texas any time during the one year.
- If the plaintiff is a minor or has been declared “of unsound mind” the period of the disability is not included in the one-year timeline.
Where to File a Texas Defamation Lawsuit?
The Texas civil court system is composed of county courts. This means that the plaintiff has to decide the venue —the county where the case will be filed and heard. Take note that the choice of where to file the lawsuit depends on the plaintiff. The defendant may challenge the choice of court, but the court needs to be convinced of the “improper venue” before the court rejects the plaintiff’s chosen venue. A Texas defamation lawsuit can be filed in the following:
- The county where the plaintiff lived during the publishing of the defamatory statement.
- The county where the defendant lived when the statement was made.
- If the defendant has moved to a different county, it will depend on the county where the defendant presently resides.
- If the defendant is a corporation, such as in the case of the media, this will depend on the county where the corporation was registered.
What Constitutes Defamation of Character in Texas?
Under Texas law, defamation of character involves incidents in which someone issues a false statement to harm another person’s reputation or present them in a bad light. Texas recognizes two types of defamation actions: defamation per se and defamation per quod. To prove defamation of character, the plaintiff must be able to show that the defendant wrote or spoke false statements to a third party. The amount of fault will depend on different aspects as follows:
- Public figures – These include public officials, public figures, and limited public figures. In this case, the plaintiff needs to prove that actual malice was present when the defamatory statement was made. Actual malice occurs when someone makes a statement with the knowledge that it is false and with reckless disregard for its falsity.
- Private figures – These are private individuals who have no public involvement in government service or any celebrity. They have lesser requirements for proof as they only need to demonstrate that the statements were made out of negligence.
- Defamation per se – Texas law recognizes that some statements are so egregious that it doesn’t require the plaintiff to prove injury. These include statements that castigate a person’s professional reputation, allege someone of sexual misconduct, accuse someone of committing a crime or having a horrendous disease.
- Defamation per quod – Unlike defamation per se, defamation per quod will require proof that damages exist. An example is when a restaurant can prove that financial loss is a direct result of false allegations of unsanitary food handling made by a previous customer.
DoNotPay Can Draw Up A Defamation Cease and Desist Letter for You in Minutes!
If you or someone you know has become a victim of defamation, there are different actions that you can take. The first step to trigger a legal procedure is to send a cease and desist letter. These are written documents that warn the recipient to stop engaging in offensive behavior such as defamation, otherwise, legal action will be taken against them. The cease and desist letter is different from a cease and desist order where the letter has no legal bearing and cannot be compellingly enforced by the court.
If you don’t know where to start drafting a defamation cease and desist letter, there are templates available online. However, the best way to ensure the technical accuracy and effectiveness of the letter is to hire legal counsel to draw one up for you. Take note that this also comes with prohibitively expensive costs. That is where DoNotPay can help! We are the world’s first robot lawyer and we can help you draft a cease and desist letter without having to worry about legalese or expenses. All you have to do is:
1. Search Defamation on DoNotPay.
2. Tell us about your situation, including whether the statements were libel or slander, listing the statements that were made, explaining why they are false or misleading, and what consequences you have suffered as a result.
3. Based on your location, DoNotPay will generate a formal demand letter on your behalf with the most relevant state legislation regarding defamation.
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