What are Defamation Damages?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 28 January 2020
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Defamation damages are legal damages awarded in a defamation case to compensate the victim of the defamation. Compensation in such cases can sometimes be quite high and in some regions, the topic of damages in defamation suits is a topic of debate, as some legal advocates believe that juries and judges award excessive damages in some cases. There are several different types of defamation damages and people may be entitled to one or more of these types depending on the nature of the case.

In a defamation case, the plaintiff attempts to prove that the defendant published demonstrably false information with the goal of damaging the plaintiff's reputation. In a simple example of defamation, a real estate agent could claim a rival was falsifying information about the condition of houses she was listing with the goal of getting a bigger commission. This would undermine the victim's reputation, as people would be hesitant to work with her. The results of the case will go on the public record, and although they cannot dispel the seeds planted in the minds of people who heard the original rumors, they can be used to demonstrably prove the falsity of the statements made by the defendant.


One type of defamation damages are actual damages, damages awarded to compensate people for documented losses experienced as a result of the defamation. In the above example, if the victim lost several sales contracts, the actual damages could include the commissions the victim lost out on as a result of not being able to complete the sales. Court costs associated with the suit may also be included, depending on the jurisdiction.

People can also claim defamation damages for what is known as “personal anguish.” In defamation cases, it is assumed that people experience anguish as a result of the damage to their reputations, as being the victim of lies and rumors is generally considered emotionally distressing. Finally, people can also claim punitive damages, awarded specifically to punish the defendant in the suit. These damages are designed both to penalize the defendant, and to send a message warning people considering similar activities that they could come with a high price tag.

Once defamation damages have been awarded, the defendant is obligated to pay them, although the court may agree to negotiate a payment plan if it is not possible to cover the damages all at once. In the event the defendant does not comply with the court order to pay damages, it is possible for the plaintiff to take the defendant to court again to sue for noncompliance.


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Post 2

I am currently a plaintiff in a defamation suit where two letters containing false statements about me were published by the board of directors and condominium management company where I lived and mailed out to all of the members of the condominium association.

The false allegation was that I had left a large and "dangerous" wake behind my boat in the marina and that residents were to keep a lookout for me and call the police. This was a result of long term antipathy regarding a disagreement between me and others over the need to dredge the marina. The letters were so damaging, that I left my property after lobbying extensively to see the false allegation retracted publicly to clear

my name so I could return to the enjoyment of my property and the marina.

Depositions to date have proven the allegations in the letters to be false and a pending deposition of the condominium board president is intended to hopefully provide proof of malicious intent in the publication of the letters. The difficulty I am having now is ascertaining damages in preparation for mediation and an RFS. According to your post, there are actual (loss of use of my property), defamation (which is arbitrary) and punitive (which I guess could only be awarded by a jury).

Could you please give any suggestions you have on how to appropriately, and reasonably, establish an RSF which may help to make me whole, but avoid dragging the case all the way to trial?

I left my property shortly after these letters were published, and as my belongings remain, I have not returned, and have no intention of doing so until this matter is resolved.

Post 1

Here is my case: an ex-employer has put on my background check that I was terminated for attendance (false info) and this info caused me to lose my job and the job I was being interviewed for. This is keeping me from getting a job and I've been told this info is not to be released on a background check.

I called and spoke with the employer and he said he could change it and put job abandonment and that would be worse for me.

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