In media, defamation cases are a regular concern. When printing information about higher profile people, especially when that information is sensitive, you run the risk of lawsuits. However, there are defenses against such claims that protect the press and other people against damages. These protections are also for consumers that share information about products and other outlets that are important for consumerism.
Specifically for consumers, being able to communicate dissatisfaction about products is important for the free market. From products that don’t serve their purpose to ones that are dangerous, there is both a legal and practical use for honest reviews.
Defenses in a Defamation Case
Even when someone does actually defame another person, the lawsuit is not destined to be successful. This is because there are many defenses against a defamation suit. Whether you are the one accused or have been victim to defamation, understanding the potential defenses is important for your own case to go well.
Some of the top defenses against such allegations include:
- The truth
- Statement of opinion
- Consent to publication of statement
- Absolute privilege
- Qualified privilege
- Retraction of statement
The strongest defense against defamation is the truth. A statement cannot be considered defamation if it is a true statement, according to the very definition of defamation.
Defamation is clearly defined as a false statement presented as fact. If the statement was not a statement of fact, it cannot be defamation. For instance, if a consumer claims a product is dangerous when it is not, it could be defamation. If the consumer instead says they felt the product could be dangerous, it is not defamation as they are presenting an opinion, not a fact.
Absolute privilege applies in certain types of communication. This privilege is when someone has the absolute right to make that statement at that time, such as during a trial, between spouses, during political broadcasts or speeches, by legislators during debates, and by high government officials. This protection is to ensure a testimony is not censored and the person can speak freely. However, once out of those specific circumstances, such as in the hallway of a courthouse to a reporter, the protection no longer applies.
Other types of communication can also be important, so there is qualified privilege to cover when a person has some right to make a statement. Examples of such cases include statements in governmental reports of official proceedings, lower government officials such as a local board, published book or film reviews with fair criticism of the work, self-defense or to warn about danger, legislative proceeding testimony by a citizen, and some statements made by a former employer to a potential employer. An example includes when a former employee was fired for theft. They can warn a potential employer they might be stolen from, unlike other negative comments about an employee.
If a statement is retracted, and often there is also an apology, it can serve as a defense to any defamation lawsuit.
If you are being accused of defamation or feel you have been defamed, we can help. Contact our team today to find out your legal options.