What’s the Difference Between False Light vs Defamation?
If someone has made a false claim about you and it has caused you harm in one way or another, you could have grounds for a defamation case. Damage caused by defamation can take a number of forms, whether it be mental, physical, reputational, or financial. Commonly, the first course of action in a case of defamation is to write and send a “cease and desist'' letter to the individual that has defamed you, setting a precedent for legal action in the case that they continue to make injurious statements.
The Legal Definition of Defamation
Slander and libel are two distinct kinds of defamation, and categorizing your case is an important first step:
- Statements deemed libel must be permanently viewable. Examples include an online article, broadcast, book, or newspaper
- Statements deemed slander are not permanently viewable and consist of spoken statements or gestures
Determining Whether It Is Defamation or a False Light Claim
- Defamation and false light are similar due to causes of action that play on disclosure of false or misleading information
- Due to the relevant overlap between these two legal terms, some states do not recognize false light as a separate entity
- To determine the strength and legal scope of your claim, determine which statute is more applicable to your particular case
To prove any claim of defamation, you must first establish what kind of defamation has occurred by the definitions above. Here is what a defamation claim vs a false light claim has to prove:
|What does a defamation claim have to prove?||What does a false light claim have to prove?|
|A statement was made about the plaintiff to another individual||The defendant published information about the plaintiff|
|The statement was false and injured the plaintiff’s reputation||The information portrayed the plaintiff in a false and misleading manner|
|The statement was injurious in nature and incurred damages||The information is offensive, embarrassing and would disturb a reasonable person|
|The defendant intentionally made the statement with reckless disregard to the plaintiff’s rights||The defendant published the information with reckless disregard concerning how offensive it is|
|There are no applicable privileges as defenses|
What Isn't Defamation?
Although proving defamation seems like a simple and well-cut process, certain legal clauses inhibit claims from being identified as slander or libel:
- A statement of opinion cannot be defamatory.
- However, if a false statement is not identified as an opinion, you may have the basis to sue for slander or libel.
Freedom of speech
- With concerns to the First Amendment, any individual has a right to not be subjected to false statements that damage their character.
- To sum, defamation is not illegal by typical legal terms. Defamation is merely a pretense of the legal system to pay compensation to people who have been inhibited by freedom of speech.
- A false light claim confronts itself when a defamatory statement about an individual is published, implying that the statement is true when it is false.
- False light is rectified to “protect the plaintiff's mental and emotional well-being” rather than their reputation or image, which defamation protects.
- Disparagement seeks to protect the financial and economic interests of the plaintiff or their products.
- In a sense, defamation works to protect personal interests, but disparagement works against more extrapersonal boundaries, consisting of things like property ownership and non-liquid assets.
The Key Differences Between Defamation and False Light
Although defamation strives to protect someone from injury to their reputation, false light strives to protect someone from the embarrassment that arises from an unfortunately misleading incident.
Some other differences include:
- The need for a false light disclosure to be made to a large group of people (to be considered public)
- False light statements require an incident or disclosure to be reasonably embarrassing to an ordinary human being
- False light claims demand that the defendant acted in reckless disregard
- Truth is a defense to defamation, but not typically a solid defense to false light claims, as public disclosures of embarrassing but true information can still be considered prosecutable in lieu of false light
Draft a Cease and Desist Letter With DoNotPay!
Writing a cease and desist letter is an appropriate response to both false light and defamation claims! To preface, many lawyers who are capable of drafting cease and desist letters will charge an exorbitant amount of compensation for even responding to your questions. DoNotPay is a no-brainer solution! The cease and desist letter DoNotPay drafts will detail the information about the case, demand retraction, warn against future statements, and will request that the accused abides by your local state statutes.
All you need to do is:
1. Look for the Defamation Demand Letters product 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! In return, you can expect a precisely drafted cease and desist letter to your cause, instantly!
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