Defamation is defined as the making of a false statement which tends to expose the plaintiff to public contempt, ridicule, aversion or disgrace or induces an evil opinion of him in the minds of right-thinking persons, and to deprive him of their friendly intercourse ( think "talking", not the common meaning) in society; Foster v Churchill, 87 NY2d 744 (1996).
Defamation occurs either as libel or slander. Libel is a publication, expressed in printing, writing or by symbols or pictures, concerning a living person that is false and tends to injure his or her reputation exposing him o rher to public hatred, contempt, scorn or shame.
Slander occurs when malicious or scandalous words are stated about a live person which injure the person's reputation or good name, and also include statements that are likely to arouse pity or sympathy in the minds of the public.
Elements of Defamation
1. A false and injurious statement of fact concerning the plaintiff (Opinions don't count).
2. Publication (speaking, e-mail, letters) to a third party (not the plaintiff) by the defendant
3. Depending upon the relationship of the parties and their status, whether the statement was made with malice, recklessness, gross negligence, or negligence, or even innocently
4. Special damages or presumed harm in slander per se
C. Privilege for statements made in a Judicial Proceeding
D. Qualified Privileges,
Damages are not limited to out of pocket expenses. Invasion of a legal right may lead to nominal damages, and punitive damages may also be awarded.
Defamation is a particularized area requiring knowledge of the law, specifics in pleadings, awareness of the statute of limitations, knowledge of defenses and privileges. These can be time consuming and expensive, so an injured party should consider this before contacting an attorney.