How Do I File a Defamation Complaint?

Article Details
  • Written By: Renee Booker
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 09 January 2020
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
Arguably the world’s first “cat video,” a short film from 1894 shows cats "boxing" in Thomas Edison's studio.  more...

February 17 ,  1820 :  The Missouri Compromise was passed.  more...

In many jurisdictions throughout the world, an individual may file a civil defamation complaint when he or she feels that someone has defamed his or her character. In common law jurisdictions, defamation is usually divided into two categories — libel and slander. In order to recover damages for libel or slander, a victim must first file an official legal defamation complaint with the court alleging that the defendant's conduct constituted defamation. The defendant will then be served with the complaint and afforded an opportunity to respond.

The precise definition of defamation will vary from across jurisdictions; however, defamation is generally considered to be communication of an alleged fact that impugns the character of the subject of the statement. The statement, in most cases, must actually be false and the communication must be to a third party. In addition, many jurisdictions exclude public figures from recovering for defamation of character except in extreme cases. If the communication in a defamation complaint is spoken, it is referred to as slander, while written communication in a defamation complaint is known as libel.


A person who believes that he or she has been the victim of defamation may wish to consult with an attorney in order to better understand the specific requirements needed to win a defamation case in the jurisdiction in question. Although an attorney may not be required in order to file a defamation complaint, consultation with one is advisable. With or without an attorney, the first step in a defamation lawsuit will be to prepare and file the defamation complaint.

A complaint for defamation is much like any other civil complaint. While rules and laws may vary among jurisdictions, in most cases, the complaint must contain basic information regarding the parties to the lawsuit, a brief explanation of the plaintiff's allegations against the defendant, and must tell the court what damages the plaintiff seeks. The complaint will likely need to be filed in the jurisdiction where the defendant is a resident or where the defendant conducts business.

Once the complaint has been filed with the court, the plaintiff will need to serve the defendant with a copy according to the service of process procedures in the jurisdiction where the lawsuit was filed. The defendant will then have an opportunity to respond, in writing, to the allegations in the complaint. Although there are many possible defenses to a defamation complaint, one universal defense is that the statement made by the defendant was actually true and, therefore, not defamatory.


You might also Like


Discuss this Article

Post 5

I had an annual performance review, and my boss informed me that one of my co workers said I was rude and mean before the review. I sent her an email regarding harassment from the same co worker. My boss put on my review that I am not a team player. The job I am currently working at is up for review in May and this review can cause me to lose my job. What should I do?

Post 4

I work for a large, successful business. I worked there for seven years and I'm still there. I work out in the shop (blue collar) with all diverse workforce (male, female, white, black, Mexican, Asian, etc.)

I have heard rumors going around that I’m using heroin, which is not true. I have a good idea who started it, but I’m not 100 percent sure. All the people ignore me now, avoid me, look down on me, and genuinely seem to believe the rumor.

I keep to myself and have meds for doctor diagnosed depression. I really have no friends at all or people to trust. I work very hard and keep busy and socialize very little (which bosses seemed to

like). I did tell the top manager in the department about it. He said he had not heard anything about that and said he appreciated my dependable work ethic. Then I told him I just wanted to inform him it was untrue instead of going through the gossip line and he said she said kind of thing. He said he would speak with his boss briefly about it. I have not been back to work yet after that or heard back from management, but I go back in three days.

If people were asked about it, I hope maybe someone would fess up. I’m so down and depressed about this. I think it may be hard to go back to work and work with all these people. What do you feel are solid courses of action I can take? I may have to take leave for increased anxiety and depression now. Help please.

Post 3

@nony - I actually think it’s hard to prove a defamation claim in many instances. That’s because one of the criteria is that the alleged defamation is factually false.

While you may be able to prove this, you may not be able to prove that the defendant knew that it was false. It may have been an expression of opinion which he believed to be true, and he meant no harm by it.

So you see there can be a lot of gray areas here. Regardless, while we do have freedom of speech, we should all be careful how we exercise that freedom. Just the threat of a lawsuit should cause us to weigh carefully what we say.

Post 2

@NathanG - Well, there is some recourse. You can file an online complaint with the website where the posting has been made. Even if the posting is anonymous, there are actually people behind that website.

The hosting provider or the website forum moderator can be served a summons. They can delete the posting in a hurry if that happens.

Also I think there are some services that will monitor your reputation online to see if any bad or inaccurate things are said about you. Some of these services are run by attorneys who know how to bring to bear the power of the law on people who recklessly make all sorts of defamation claims online.

Post 1

I think the Internet has thrown a curve ball into defamation and slander issues. Who is the defendant if you find something online that is demonstrably slanderous or libelous?

Where does the defendant reside and how can they be issued a summons? People can slander you in blog postings, in Internet forums, in articles, just about anywhere you can imagine. People can also slander you anonymously – so you don’t know who your accuser is. They just hide out in cyberspace.

This makes it difficult to file a complaint lawsuit, in my opinion. I would hope there is some recourse somewhere, though, because if your reputation is damaged online there can be virtually no recourse.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?