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Can I Sue for Defamation?

|Posted on October 5, 2018 in Firm News |

Notice: Please be aware that this article is for informational purposes only and that the Wendt Law Firm does not handle defamation cases.

Defamation refers to any type of statement that injures someone’s reputation. If someone speaks ill of you or your business, writes a dishonest negative review, or spreads rumors about you and it damages your reputation, you could be the victim of defamation. The charge of defamation is a civil wrongdoing in Kansas City. Victims may have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit against the individual allegedly guilty of defamation in pursuit of damage recovery. You need the following elements to have grounds for a lawsuit for defamation in Kansas or Missouri.

Proof That Someone Made and Published a Statement

Libel and slander are the two types of defamation. Written defamation is libel; spoken defamation is slander. Both are types of civil torts, but libel is often easier to prove. Most courts see libel as more harmful than slander since the written word lasts longer than speech. Still, you could have a case involving slander if someone else witnessed the defendant saying negative things about you. You need proof that the defendant in question made some statement about you, and that someone published the statement.

“Publishing” may mean actual written text, but pictures, gestures, and words may also count as defamation. Someone published defamation if a third party overheard or read the statement in question. If a third party did not hear the defamatory remark, you will not have grounds for a lawsuit, because the information did not get out or cause you harm. A third party must have heard the defamation in person, over the radio, through social media, gossip, television, or other means for you to have a case.

A Connection Between the Statement and Your Injury

The second necessary element for a defamation case is proof that the defendant’s statement caused your injuries in question. If you’re going up against a defendant for leaving a negative business review, for example, you must prove that it was the review that caused a decline in business and not something else, like a new competing restaurant that just opened in town. The defendant’s defamatory published statement must be the proximate cause of your damages in question.

Real, Compensable Damages

You must also show you suffered compensable damages or injuries because of the defendant’s actions. Otherwise, you won’t have anything to claim in a lawsuit. “Damages” from defamation can include:

  • Lost work or business
  • Lost profitability
  • Damage to one’s reputation
  • Broken relationships with friends or family
  • Harassment from the press
  • Property damage, such as vandalism

The value of your damages can determine whether you need an attorney’s assistance. Considerable damages deserve attention from a team of lawyers.

Evidence the Statement Was False

To qualify as defamation, the statement in question must be false. It is not a civil wrong to publish truths about someone or honest, good faith opinions – even if they are negative. The statement must be untrue for the Kansas City courts to hear a defamation case. Mean, disparaging, and negative comments are only defamation if they’re false, regardless of whether they cause damages. You must have the power to prove the comment false.

Confirmation the Statement Wasn’t “Privileged”

Finally, you must show that the defendant did not issue the defamatory statement within “privileged” circumstances. In privileged conversations, free speech is important enough to protect the speaker from threats of defamation lawsuits. Examples include testimonies during court cases or lawmakers making a statement in the legislative chamber. You will not have the right to file a defamation lawsuit unless the statement was “unprivileged.”

Talk to a Kansas City personal injury attorney if you’re not sure whether you have the elements to file a claim against someone for defamation. A lawyer can walk you through everything you’ll need to bring a case in Kansas City. A lawyer can also help you gather evidence and build a case against the defendant. A lawsuit may be your answer to recovering the damages you suffered because of a false statement someone said against you.