DEFAMATION

We have all heard of defamation lawsuits where someone is claiming that their good names and reputation has been “ruined” by another. In this article we will discuss how to know whether or not you have a defamation case against another.

It is very easy to get bogged down in the technicalities of defamation and where they have derived from. But in the interest of time I’ll spare everyone those extensive details of getting into the first amendment issues.

In general, defamation is defined as a false and defamatory statement concerning the Plaintiff which is unprivileged and is conveyed to a third party that could result to some type of harm in some cases. Defamation has been divided into three different categories which we will go over. In order to find out if you have a claim or not, we first need to determine which category you, as the person who is claiming to have been defamed (plaintiff), fit in. For ease, the following chart can be used for reference:

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So, the question becomes do we need to have any economic harm to be able to have a claim for defamation? The answer is that it really depends. Please refer to the table below.

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DEFINITIONS

    1. General Purpose Public Figure: the plaintiff is a celebrity whose name is a household word and whose ideas and actions the public in fact follows with great interest.
    2. Limited Purpose Public Figure: More commonly, an individual voluntarily becomes involved or is drawn into a particular public controversy and thereby becomes a public figure for a limited range of issues.

Some Examples: The dean of a state college has been labeled a public figure in the context of a dispute arising out of the dean’s tenure. A candidate for public office is a public figure for purposes of a defamation action. However, the director of a property owners’ association was deemed not to be a public figure even though the director had been elected by the property owners’ association.

Additionally, even a single interview given to the media may be sufficient to establish a defamation Plaintiff as a limited purpose public figure.

HOW TO DETERMINE WHETHER SOMEONE IS A PUBLIC FIGURE?

    1. Define the public controversy;
    2. Examine the plaintiff’s involvement in the controversy; and
    3. Determine whether the alleged defamation related to the plaintiff’s participation in the controversy.

IS THE PLAINTIFF REQUIRED TO REQUEST A RETRACTION BEFORE SUBMITTING THEIR CLAIM OF DEFAMATION LAWSUIT?

In short, if punitive damages are sought, then you have to request a retraction at least 7 days before filing a lawsuit.

WHAT IS PRIVILEGED COMMUNICATION?

  1. Statements made in good faith in the performance of a public duty.
  2. Statements made in good faith in the performance of a legal or moral private duty.
  3. Statements made with a good faith intent on the part of the speaker to protect his or her interest in a matter in which it is concerned.
  4. Statements made in good faith as part of an act in furtherance of the right of free speech or the right to petition government or a redress of grievances under the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of the State of Georgia in connection with an issue of public interest or concern as defined by O.C.G.A. § 9-11-11.1(c).
  5. Fair and honest reports of the proceedings of legislative or judicial bodies.
  6. Fair and honest reports of court proceedings.
  7. Comments of course, fairly made, on the circumstances of a case in which he or she is involved and on the conduct of the parties in connection with that case.
  8. Truthful reports of information received from any arresting officer or police authorities.
  9. Comments on the acts of public men or public women in their public capacity.

 

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

One year. This limitation period begins to run when the defamatory statement is uttered or published. An action must be brought within one year from the date of the alleged defamatory acts regardless of whether plaintiff had knowledge of the acts at the time of their occurrence.