In Absence Of Malice, Paul Newman’s character says, "where do I go to get my good name back?" The sad truth is, a damaged reputation cannot easily be restored. The best advice we can give is drawn from the golden rule of doing to others as you would have them do unto you: so, do not speak ill of others. In our internet frenzied world, it is easy to tear others down. And, get caught doing so. Avoid the temptation.

VolkLaw handles defamation cases. Like all areas of the law, it is easy to make mistakes. The law often provides a remedy for unfairness and defamation law is one of those fields where a person can at least have some financial redress against one who damages that person’s reputation.

Defamation has two types: libel which is defamation in the printed word and slander which is verbal defamation. To create liability for defamation there must be:

  1. a false and defamatory statement concerning another;
  2. an unprivileged publication to a third party;
  3. fault amounting at least to negligence on the part of the publisher; and
  4. either actionability of the statement irrespective of special harm or the existence of special harm caused by the publication.

When your read those legal elements, it sounds rather easy. It is not easy. In some cases, the truth is not a defense and an otherwise protected privileged statement might still get you sued. For instance, malice can still expose you to liability in spite of the pure truthfulness of what was said. In some cases, you do not have to prove you suffered any actual financial harm, because the law presumes that some defamation naturally causes harm. Injury to one’s business reputation is an example. That is defamation per se. Slander per se is actionable on its face, but slander per quod requires additional explanation of the words used to show that they have a defamatory meaning or that the person defamed was the person filing the lawsuit. In slander per se actions, general damages are presumed; for per quod actions, the plaintiff must allege and prove special damages.

A slew of special rules apply based on the circumstances. Public figures get less protection than private citizens. Privilege, qualified privilege, first amendment concerns in religious cases, and jurisdictional issues are some of the twists and turns a good lawyer will understand and be able to navigate.

As we all know, the value of a good name is nothing new.

"Good name in man and woman, dear my lord, Is the immediate jewel of their souls: Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing; ’twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands; But he that filches from me my good name Robs me of that which not enriches him, And makes me poor indeed." ― William Shakespeare, Othello

The matters discussed here are general in nature and are not to be relied upon as legal advice. Every specific legal matter requires specific legal attention. The law is constantly changing and matters discussed today may not be the same tomorrow. Legal matters are also subject to different interpretations by attorneys, judges, jurors and scholars. No attorney-client relationship is intended or created as a result of matters discussed here. You should consult counsel of your choice if you have any dealings in these areas of the law. Volk Law Offices, P.A. and its attorneys make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the matters addressed.