Has someone ever made up something about you and told it to another person?
Did a customer leave an inaccurate review of your business online?
Did you suffer as a result of these false statements?
If any of these has happened, you may have a claim for defamation. In Virginia, defamation refers to both slander and libel. Slander includes oral statements. Libel includes writings or online postings. Defamation is defined as a false verbal or written statement of fact published or communicated to another person that causes injury to the reputation of the subject of the statement.
Legal Elements of Defamation
In Virginia you must prove the following four elements to succeed on a claim of defamation:
- A false and defamatory statement of fact (not just opinion);
- About you;
- That is transmitted to another party; and
- Causes you damage.
Defamation Per Se
In defamation per se cases, damages do not need to be proven because they are presumed. The law recognizes that some statements are harmful to reputation by their very nature and for this special category of statements, the person suing does not need to prove actual damages. The three primary categories of defamation per se are:
- Stating that someone committed a crime involving immorality (e.g. lying, cheating, or stealing).
- Stating that someone is infected with a contagious disease (e.g. COVID-19 or AIDS).
- Stating false facts that injure someone in his or her profession or trade.
Claims for defamation can be complex as there is a fine distinction between what constitutes a defamatory statement. For example, statements consisting of opinions do not constitute defamation as they do not contain facts. In order to have a claim for defamation, a statement must be factual, yet false. If you say that a particular Uber driver in a bad driver, that is just an opinion. If you say that the same driver caused four accident last year—and that is factually untrue—that can be a defamatory statement and could potentially serve as the basis of a defamation action.
Additionally, the subject of the statement may have a more difficult time proving their claim if they are a public figure. Public figures, as opposed to private individuals, must prove that the person defaming them knew the statement was false when they made the statement. The last element is often the most difficult to prove but it is not insurmountable when truly malicious and false statements are involved
Online social media acts as both a megaphone and a permanent record, and the effect can be to multiply the harm caused by defamatory statements. Failure to aggressively pursue your claim of defamation may harm you or your company’s reputation and livelihood. Both people and businesses may bring defamation lawsuits and the attorneys at Parks Zeigler are here to help you.
Have You Been A Victim of Defamation?
If you have been a victim of Defamation, Parks Zeigler, PLLC civil litigation attorneys can provide you with knowledgeable legal advice to help you prevent and manage the business disputes that so often inevitably arise. Schedule a consultation with one of our experienced civil litigation attorney now. Call 888-691-9319 or fill out this short form to get started.