What Are Defamation, Slander and Libel?

defamatory statementDefamation is a false statement, either written or spoken, that harms a person’s or business’ reputation.  Slander is the speaking of defamatory words that tend to hurt another in his reputation, office, trade, business, or means of livelihood.  Libel is defined as written defamatory words that tend to hurt another’s reputation, office, trade, business, or means of livelihood. Thus, the difference between libel and slander is whether the words are written or spoken.There are no set rules defining what words are or are not defamatory.  The words must be considered in the context of the surrounding circumstances, the words used, and the status of the speaker.    Courts usually consider all the words used, not merely a particular phrase or sentence to determine whether defamation has occurred.

What Statements Are Presumed to be Defamatory?

A false statement is presumed to be slanderous or libel, when considered alone it:

(1) accuses a person of committing a crime;

(2) claims a person has an infectious disease;

(3) tends to subject one to hatred, distrust, ridicule, contempt, or disgrace; or

(4) tends to injure one in his trade or profession.

Such statements are defamatory per se.  A slanderous or libel per se statement raises the presumption of malice, and assumes that a person has been damaged.

What Damages Can Be Recovered for Defamation?

 If a statement is per se defamatory, there is a presumption that one has been damaged.   A court will assume that the party speaking or writing the false words did so with the intent to hurt the party that involve the defamatory statements.  If the words are not within the four categories listed above, the person who has been defamed will have to prove that the person making the defamatory statements did so with malice.  A person who has been defamed can recover those damages that are caused by the defamatory statements.  These damages may include money lost due to loss of employment, emotional damages, as well as punitive damages.

If you have been defamed, or have been sued for defaming someone, please contact De Varona Law for a free consultation.  Alexandra De Varona has successfully represented both Plaintiffs and Defendants in numerous defamation matters.  De Varona Law is a law firm serving Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Martin Counties.