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Know the Law – Defamation, Libel, and Slander

Posted at 9:00 AM, Jul 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-13 09:01:09-04

Defamation, libel, and slander all fall under Michigan defamation law. Tom Sinas, Grand Rapids personal injury attorney from Sinas Dramis Law firm, explains how civil litigation and the first amendment often collide. In this week’s segment, find out how far is too far in the eyes of the law when it comes to defamation, libel, and slander. He explains what a person’s rights are to free speech, but also the other person’s rights to claims stating the perpetrator went too far.

Defamation, Libel, and Slander in Broad Terms
Defamation is the broad term, while libel and slander are two different things. For instance, libel refers to printed materials while slander is spoken. Both are forms of defamation. Generally, defamation laws refer to a false and defamatory statement of fact that is false or negligent and doing so causes harm to another person. Historically, courts have had a difficult time parsing through these types of cases, in particular with regard to public figures.

Public Figures and Defamation Laws
When it comes defamation, libel, and slander public figures typically receive less protection due to the fact that debates regarding these individuals is encouraged. Because of this, the courts ultimately decided that public figures should receive less protection than businesses and members of the public. Public figures have a higher burden of proof and need to show that the statement about them was made with the knowledge of it being false or made with reckless disregard in order to pursue a civil claim.

Defenses to Defamation Claims

The defense to defamation is the truth. If you say something about a public figure or company’s reputation that is true, then it cannot be defamatory. Many times, litigation typically is hung up on establishing what is the truth in these types of cases. Furthermore, the statute of limitations for defamation cases is only a year.

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