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What is defamation?

Defamation is the term that refers to both libel and slander.  Defamation is the publication of material that adversely affects a person, or a company’s reputation.  Libel concerns lasting forms of publication such as print or broadcasting.  Slander refers to more transient forms of publication such as speech.

A statement is not defamatory unless its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the subject of the statement that has been made.  There is no single judicial interpretation of what amounts to defamation however the test that is often used is whether the statement lowers the claimant in the estimation of society generally or is likely to affect a person adversely in the estimation of reasonable people.

Who can sue for defamation?

An individual, company or business can sue for defamation.  While the company or business cannot sue for injury to feelings, there is the reputation of a business to protect.

Are there time limits for suing for defamation?

Yes, to sue for defamation, a claim must be made within one year of the statement having been made.  The one year period runs from the date of the publication of the defamatory statement.

How to prove allegations of defamation

  • The statement must be defamatory, that is, the statement must tend to lower the recipient of the statement in the estimation of members of society.
  • The statement must have caused or be likely to cause, serious harm to the reputation of the individual or to the company.  Serious harm to a business or company is not serious unless it has caused or is likely to cause serious financial loss.
  • The individual or business must establish that the words complained of have been published to a third party and that the defendant is responsible for the publication of the words.  The meaning of the words is important because words can often be understood in different ways.  Generally the court looks for the natural and ordinary meaning of the words which will be conveyed to an individual who reads the whole document or hears the whole statement.

What happens if you win a defamation case?

Generally, if you win your case for defamation you will be awarded compensation which is known as damages.  You may be able to obtain an injunction to prevent repetition of the defamation before the trial of your case.  If you are successful in your claim for defamation your opponent will usually have to pay a proportion of your legal costs.

Alternatives to suing for defamation

Mediation can be used to settle a dispute regarding a claim for defamation.  Mediation can simply be described as assisted negotiation.  A neutral mediator can help parties overcome deadlock and reach a negotiated settlement

Speak to a specialist dispute resolution solicitor

Bray & Bray’s dispute resolution team has specialist solicitors who deal with disputes between individuals, disputes between individuals and businesses, and disputes between businesses.

To speak to a specialist today, contact the specialist team of dispute resolution solicitors using one of the telephone numbers below: