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What Are the Elements of a Defamation Case?

Posted on March 15, 2020 in Defamation

Defamation occurs when someone makes a statement that causes harm to your reputation or livelihood. There are two main types of defamation cases: libel, which involves someone making a defamatory written statement, and slander, which involves a defamatory spoken statement.

What Are the Elements of a Defamation Case?

If someone makes a defamatory statement about you, you could lose standing in your community or workplace, experience irreparable harm to your relationships, and may even affect your employment — especially if someone in your workplace is the source of the defamatory statement.

However, you have the option to hold this person accountable through a defamation lawsuit in Illinois civil court. To successfully prove a defamation case, you and your attorney will need to work closely together to prove five specific elements with sufficient evidence.

#1: The Defendant Made a Statement

For a defamation case to occur, you will first need to prove that the person you are holding accountable in your lawsuit made the defamatory statement in question. You may need to collect witness testimony, documents, photographs, and other concrete pieces of evidence to connect the defendant to the statement. All people who state or repeat a defamatory statement that they knew or should have known was false could be liable in your case.

#2: The Defendant Communicates the Statement to a Third Party

After you prove that the defendant in your case made the defamatory statement, you must prove that he or she communicated that statement to a third party or parties. Simply thinking a negative thought about someone or writing a statement down in a private journal is not enough to warrant a defamation case.

However, if he or she repeated the statement to another person, posted the statement online, made signs or artwork to communicate that statement, or took any other action to communicate that statement to another person or to the public, it may be grounds for defamation. You may need to gather similar evidence to prove this element as you did the first.

#3: The Defendant’s Statement Causes Harm to You

For a defamation case to be valid and for you to receive compensation for your injuries as a result of the defamation, you will need to prove that the statement caused harm to you. Perhaps a colleague’s false rumor caused you to lose your job, leading to significant financial hardship and emotional distress, or another rumor led to physical assault

Whatever injury you suffer as a result of the statement, you will need to prove it occurred as a direct result of the defendant’s defamation. You may need to present evidence such as medical records, termination notices, eviction records, and witness testimony to prove this point.

#4: The Defendant’s Statement Is Not True

A true statement does not constitute defamation, and to successfully prove your lawsuit, you will need to prove that the defendant’s statement is false. If someone is stating facts to other people in the room or clearly communicating an opinion, the statement will likely not hold up as defamation in the courtroom. If you can prove that the statement is a lie and the defendant knew or should have known it was a lie, you have a greater chance at receiving your settlement

#5: No Existing Protection from Liability Is Present

The defendant may make the statement while engaging in an activity that protects him or her from liability. The defendant may have this immunity, known as the qualified privilege defense, if he or she made the statement while testifying in court, giving fair criticism during a performance review, or reporting in the press. If this is the case in your lawsuit, the court is likely to dismiss your claim unless you can prove the defendant did not make this claim in good faith, but with malice.

Are you the victim of defamation in your workplace? If so, contact a Chicago employment attorney as soon as possible to discuss the circumstances surrounding your case and begin filing your defamation lawsuit. Hiring a lawyer to represent your interests in Illinois civil court can provide a number of benefits to your claim, including access to resources, knowledge of employment and defamation law, and experience advocating for clients’ best interests during negotiation and trial.