A plaintiff who wants to sue for defamation must first review the specific statute in his jurisdiction to determine what elements constitute defamation. He must prove those elements to win his case. Many jurisdictions say the elements of defamation are defamatory language, that such language was used in discussing the plaintiff, that the defendant publicized the language to a third person, and that there was as a result damage to the plaintiff’s reputation. If the plaintiff is a public figure or if the defamation is regarding a matter of public concern, then the plaintiff will need to prove two additional elements. They are the falsity of the language and the fault of the defendant.
A person who plans to sue for defamation without a lawyer's help should research case law concerning defamation. This will allow the plaintiff to understand how courts in his jurisdiction have interpreted defamation statutes. The legal terms used in a statute have a unique legal meaning specific to the jurisdiction in which a plaintiff sues for defamation. Thorough legal research will also help the plaintiff to understand the legal defenses a defendant could raise. This will enable a plaintiff to assess the likelihood of success in his case.
After legal research on defamation is complete, the plaintiff’s research should next focus on the court’s rules of civil procedure for his jurisdiction. The rules of procedure will make the plaintiff aware of critical time frames for meeting deadlines on matters such as obtaining discovery and filing motions. Failure to comply with deadlines could result in the court dismissing the case, so it is vital to know how the court calculates deadlines.
A plaintiff can prepare a complaint to sue for defamation after legal research is complete. The plaintiff must carefully design the complaint to withstand defense motions to dismiss from the onset. A plaintiff can often find templates or books containing sample complaints, which the plaintiff can use as a model when drafting his own complaint to sue for defamation. These documents can be found at law libraries and some bookstores, among other places. It is necessary to modify these documents to meet the circumstances of a plaintiff’s particular situation.
After the complaint to sue for defamation is complete, the plaintiff can strategize and determine whether to file suit immediately or begin preparing a discovery plan before initiating the suit. When a lawsuit is filed, the parties are entitled to obtain discovery from the opposing party. This means a party can force an opposing party to provide them with copies of any documents that may be relevant to the suit; respond to interrogatories, which are set of written questions that must be answered; or submit to a deposition. Preparing a discovery plan and knowing when to implement it would provide a plaintiff with an advantage. Demands for discovery often place tremendous pressure on a defendant because the time in which the defendant must respond begins when the interrogatories are received from the plaintiff.