Updated: September 25, 2021.
Being the victim of defamation can be very stressful. It can harm your reputation and negatively impact your business. As you research defamation law online, you might notice that it is quite tricky. An introductory glance into the complexities of defamation law in New York can help you understand defamation a little bit better.
In a nutshell, defamation is the publication or communication of a false statement of fact about a person to a third-party, which causes harm to the person’s reputation. It can be in writing (which is called libel), or it can appear in the form of verbal communication (which is called slander).
In New York, you are required to specify the particular words used. Courts typically also require you to state when, where and how the words were spoken or written, and to whom the statement was made. Therefore, if you believe you have been defamed, it is imperative to gather as much evidence as possible. Screenshot the materials at issue (if applicable), make note of the exact time and place the statement was made, and create a narrative or a timeline of events that could help you explain exactly what happened. You will want to be able to give the most detailed explanation possible and back it up with proof where you can.
If the statement (or statements) is printed somewhere or posted online, a good first step might be to ask the person or company to take down the materials and issue an apology or retraction. However, if you are unsure about what you should do, or if they ignored your request, you may wish to speak to an experienced defamation lawyer to talk about your legal options.
When a defamation claim is brought to court, the party asserting defamation must prove:
The first step in proving defamation is determining whether the statement at issue was a statement of fact, or merely an opinion. An statement of opinion, typically, is not considered defamation and is protected by speaker’s First Amendment rights. It is equally important to note that defamation is a false statement of fact. If the statement is true, it does not constitute defamation.
Keep in mind that the statute of limitations in New York for filing a defamation claim is one year. However, the clock may reset on the limitation when a defamatory statement is republished somewhere else or to a new audience.
Defamation per se applies to certain categories of statements, where New York courts may not require proof of harm or damage done to you. These four categories are:
If you have initiated a defamation lawsuit, the person you are accusing may fight back with arguments of their own. Here are just some of the defenses that could come up in litigation:
For many people and businesses, reputation is everything. If you feel that you have been harmed by someone’s statements, you should talk to an experienced attorney who can help you navigate the complexities of this area of law.