Truth as a Defense to Defamation - Explained

Defamation Demand Letters Truth as a Defense to Defamation - Explained

Truth as a Defense to Defamation

Defamation is a civil wrong and it occurs when someone makes false and damaging comments about you, causing harm to reputation. There are two types of defamation: libel occurs when the defamatory statements are written or put online, and slander occurs when defamatory actions are spoken or acted out. In order to prove a defamation case, the libel or slander must have been published in some form, resulting in damage to the subject's reputation, future prospects, and even physical or mental health.

As a reaction to defamation, many people opt to draft a cease and desist letter, in which they warn the person who is making the damaging allegations to halt before any further legal action is taken. Learn more about defamation and how to interpret the laws of the truth as an absolute defense in the sections below. 

What Is Defamation?

Slander and libel are the two components of defamation, as previously mentioned:

LibelLibel is further characterized by the fact that it leaves a permanent record. It can be through an email, radio or television broadcast, newspaper article, or an internet posting.
SlanderFalse statements or gestures are not recorded in any way, and they may be as simple as a spoken word.

What doesn't count as defamation?

Despite the fact that establishing defamation seems to be a straightforward procedure, many legal loopholes prohibit allegations from being classified as slander or libel: 

Opinion

  • A statement of opinion cannot be defamatory. The defamatory statement must be false and not a mere opinion.
  • Defamatory statements that are not labeled as opinions may provide you with grounds to file a lawsuit for slander or libel.

The right to free expression

  • When it comes to the First Amendment, people have the right not to be exposed to lies that cast aspersions on their reputations.
  • In essence, defamation is not unlawful in the legal sense of the word. A claim of defamation is just an excuse for the legal system to compensate those who have been hurt by freedom of expression.

False light statements

  • It is possible to make a false light claim when a defamatory statement about a person is published in a way that implies that the statement is factual when it is not.
  • In contrast to defamation, false light is created to "defend the plaintiff's mental and emotional well-being," rather than to "guard the plaintiff's reputation," which is what defamation does.

Disparagement

  • Disparagement serves to safeguard the commercial and economic interests of the plaintiff or the goods they are attempting to sell.
  • Defamation is intended to defend personal interests, while disparagement is intended to safeguard interests that extend beyond the individual, such as property ownership and non-liquid assets.

Defenses to Defamation

Lawsuits for defamation are tough to win because the plaintiff must prove defamation and avoid the many defenses against defamation claims. Here are the three most popular defenses to defamation:

  1. The truth - If the statement is true, it cannot be false and thus a defamation claim has no basis.
  2. Consent - The defamatory statement was shared by the defamed person. For example, if you share a false claim that was initially only sent to you, you allowed the defamatory statement to reach others.
  3. Privilege - The statements were said in a situation that were protected. There are two types of privilege - absolute and qualified. If a statement has absolute privilege, it means a defamation claim cannot be made. An example of a statement with absolute privilege is a testimony made in court. Qualified privilege applies in situations where the person is obligated to make such statements. To claim qualified privilege, the statement must have been made without malice.

Using the Truth Defense in Lawsuits

  • The truth, or at least significant truth, is a full defense to a defamation lawsuit. The only real question is who has the responsibility of demonstrating that what is said is correct. 
  • The plaintiff must show the falsehood of an alleged defamatory statement as a component of the defamatory statement portion of the plaintiff's case; but, in most states, a defendant's claim that the statement was truthful is considered to be a valid affirmative defense by the courts.
  • In legal terms, an affirmative defense is a defense that must be pled and proven by the party answering a claim.
  • While the truth is always a defense, the United States Supreme Court held in Philadelphia Newspapers v. Hepps that the truth is not always an affirmative defense in civil litigation.
  • It was determined by the court that, when a statement by a media defendant addressed a subject of "public concern," it was the plaintiff's responsibility to demonstrate that the statement was untrue.
  • Consequently, a media defendant will not be needed to establish the veracity of a statement relating to an issue of public concern.

Filing a Cease and Desist Letter

  • Cease and desist letters are very complicated and specific wording is required in order to establish credibility for your position. 
  • It is possible that your letter may be ignored or considered inadequate for a legitimate case if it does not correctly describe the damages, injury, and other facts concerning your case using language that is appropriate in a court of law
  • You may hire a lawyer to draft a cease and desist letter on your behalf, but this will be more costly and take longer than you expect.

Draft a Cease and Desist Letter in Minutes!

DoNotPay is a simple, credible, and safe solution! The cease and desist letter DoNotPay drafts details the information about the case, demands retraction, warns against any impending statements, and will order that the accused abides by local state law.

All you need to do is:

1. Search defamation on DoNotPay and select the Defamation Demand Letters service.

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 detailed drafted cease and desist letter to your cause, in an instant! 

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