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What Is a Defamation Claim?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 13 July 2014
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A defamation claim is a type of legal claim made by one party against another in which the first party accuses the other of defaming his or her character. This is typically a civil lawsuit and a number of different countries and regions have various laws that indicate what types of defamations can result in legal action against a person. In general, this type of claim is either based upon a claim of libel or slander against a person and will typically request compensatory and punitive damages. A defamation claim often indicates that a defendant made the statement that defamed the character of the plaintiff, who typically must prove that the statement was untrue.

Also often referred to as a defamation tort or defamation of character claim, a defamation claim is typically based upon the guidelines set by the laws of the region in which it is made. In some countries there are laws that indicate “crimes against honor” or similar defamatory remarks that can be criminal offenses as well as civil matters. Within the US, however, a defamation claim is a civil suit and cannot result in jail time.

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A defamation claim in the US will typically consist of one of two specific forms of defamation, or perhaps both, which are libel and slander. Libel is any defamation of character that is made verbally or in a way that is transitory in nature. Slander, on the other hand, is a defamatory statement that is made in writing or another persistent form, such as on an Internet website. In a defamation claim made in regard to libel, the plaintiff will have to prove that the person actually made the statement, usually through a witness that directly heard the comment. For slander, it can often be easier to prove that the statement was made since there is usually a lasting record of the comment being made.

The plaintiff will typically have to establish that the defamation was made as a statement of fact by the defendant, and not merely opinion. Once the plaintiff proves that a defendant made the statement pertaining to a defamation claim, he or she will have to establish that the claim is untrue or flagrantly inflammatory. A defense of truth is not always universal, but it can be very difficult to win a defamation case against someone if he or she is able to prove that the statement made is accurate.

Even if the statement was factually accurate, if it was made in a way that served no purpose other than to cause harm to the plaintiff, then the defamation claim may still be ruled in favor of the plaintiff. This type of case can occur, for example, if someone revealed sensitive medical information about a politician during a political campaign. While the information could be true, releasing the information may be found to have not been for the public good and served only to harm the reputation of the person.

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