The first step in forwarding a claim for defamation is asking the most basic question: do I have a claim? In an action for slander, the plaintiff must prove: (1) the defamatory character of the communication; (2) publication by the defendant; (3) its application to the plaintiff; (4) understanding by the recipient of its defamatory meaning; (5) understanding by the recipient of it as intended to be applied to the plaintiff; (6) special harm to the plaintiff; (7) abuse of a conditionally privileged occasion.
If the false statement about you was written or recorded, then it's called libel (not slander), then you need not prove special damages. However, there are a number of defenses to libel, slander, and invasion of privacy. You should consult an attorney as soon as possible to know how the law will apply to your particular case.
What Damages are Available?
A false or misleading communication about you can not only damage your reputation, but also cost you customers, a promotion at work, and even your job, leaving you with little or no income. You may feel powerless, but talk to our defamation lawyers. We seek compensation for damage to your reputation, lost income, and all other consequential damages you face. In certain cases, a court will award you attorney fees, punitive damages, and enjoin a party from making any further statement about you to prevent irreparable harm to your reputation.
When Must I File Suit?
In Pennsylvania, there is a strict, one years statute of limitations for claims for defamation and libel. During that time, you need to consult an attorney, have him prepare a formal written complaint, and have the complaint actually filed. In other words, the one year period goes by very quickly. Contact our lawyers for a free consultation today. 412.780.0008.
With What Court Should I File Suit?
If your claim is relatively small, you can maintain a claim on the small claims court docket, so long as you are seeking $8,000 or less. Otherwise, you will need to file on the county court of common pleas docket. There, your case can go in one of two directions, generally. If you are seeking an amount under $25,000, your case will go to compulsory arbitration, where you will get a relative quick arbitration date. Otherwise, your case will proceed on the general docket and the time it takes to go to trial will likely exceed a year or more, but there are certain advantages and disadvantages to proceeding on the general docket. Talk to our lawyers for a free consultation. 412.780.0008.
What Are the Defenses to a Claim for Libel or Slander?
It is an absolute defense to a claim for defamation (not invasion of privacy) if the defendant can prove that the statement he was true. This is where you need experienced counsel to prove to a judge or jury exactly why the statement or statements at issue were false.
A person may be justified in making a false statement about you if the statement was made innocently and for an important public purpose, such as reporting a crime, and the privilege is qualified, meaning, it is not absolute. No privilege will exist if the defendant acted with malice. Malice is defined a the intentional or reckless disregard for the truth.
There is a higher burden of proof to show defamation where the person bringing the action is a public figure (movie stars, athletes playing in national leagues, politicians, certain business owners who advertise regularly). A public figure must show actual malice on the part of the defendant.