Santa Rosa Defamation Lawyer
One of the most valuable qualities of yourself is your reputation. Unfortunately, someone can tarnish your reputation with a false defamatory statement. If you or a loved one believe you were defamed by the statements of another or accused of defaming another, the Santa Rosa defamation lawyer at the Law Office of Kasra Parsad may be able to help you restore your reputation and help you recover financially.
What is Defamation?
Put simply, defamation is a false statement that causes harm to a person’s reputation. A defamatory statement made verbally is slander whereas a defamatory statement made in writing is libel.
California Civil Code section 45 defines libel as ‘”a false and unprivileged publication by writing, printing, picture, effigy, or other fixed representation to the eye, which exposes any person to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy, or which tends to injure him in his occupation.”
California Civil Code section 46 defines slander as “a false and unprivileged publication, orally uttered,” that does one or more of the following to the plaintiff:
- Accuses them of a crime
- Claims they have contagious, infectious, or scary diseases
- Naturally causes damage
- Injures the person’s profession, office, or business,
- Imputes impotence or lack of chastity
Whether the statement is libel or slander, a false statement that injures another reputation is defamation.
How Do You Prove Defamation?
To successfully prevail on a defamation claim, a plaintiff must prove:
(1) The defendant made an intentional publication of a statement of fact;
(2) Which was false;
(3) The publication was unprivileged;
(4) Said statement had the natural tendency of causing injury or special damages; and
(5) The publication amounted to at least negligence
Intentional Publication of a Factual Statement
The defendant must have intended to publish the statement for a statement to be defamatory. Publication, in the legal sense, means communicating the information to a third party who understands its defamatory implications. In other words, while a statement can be “published” through a written newspaper or a verbal Youtube video, the statement need not be publicly communicated: communication to a single person suffices.
One of the most argued issues in defamation litigation is whether a statement was either a factual statement or one of opinion. If the defendant stated an opinion, compared to a statement of fact, there cannot be defamation. Nevertheless, a statement characterized as an opinion can still constitute defamation if it suggests the allegation of undisclosed defamatory facts as the basis for the opinion. The main question is whether a reasonable person could determine whether the statements imply a demonstrably false factual assertion.
The burden is on the plaintiff to prove that the defendant’s defamatory statements are false. On the contrary, if the defendant was telling the truth, presenting evidence of the truth of the claims establishes an absolute defense to a defamation suit. This indicates if a person is spreading a rumor about another person, for example, and the story turns out to be true, then there is no defamation.
It should be noted, a defamer does not need to prove the exact truth of the claims; it is enough to prove the substance of the statement was true. In private defamation claims, the defendant bears the burden of proving the truth. But in cases of a public figures or issues of public concern, the plaintiff has the burden to prove falsity.
For a statement to be actionable as defamation, it must be unprivileged. In other words, privileged communications are a defense to defamation. Under California Code of Civil Procedure section 47, certain publications are privileged. Privileged publications include publications made:
- In the proper discharge of an official duty
- In a legislative or judicial proceeding
- By a fair and true report in, a communication to, a public journal of a judicial, legislative, or another public proceeding; and
- Communications made without malice to interested parties
Damages or Injuries Caused to the Plantiff
A plaintiff must prove in a defamation case that the publication caused injury or “special damages.” Defamation cases will fall into one of two categories:
- Defamation Per Se
- Defamation Per Quod
Defamation Per Se
Defamation per se means that the published statement is damaging in itself. In other words, the publication is so damaging that the plaintiff does not need to prove actual damages. Statements that are defamatory per se include statements accusing others of committing a crime, having a venereal disease, or being unfit to practice a trade or profession.
Defamation Per Quod
Defamation per quod means that the defamatory statement is not on its face so damaging and requires proof of special damages. These special damages include lost profits, adverse employment consequences, and decreased business.
Fault in California Defamation Cases
Like other personal injury cases, a plaintiff in a defamation lawsuit must show that the defendant was liable for their damages. But liability depends on whether the plaintiff was a public or private person.
Private persons are individuals who are not well-known to the public. Private individuals must prove that the defendant was at least negligent regarding the truth of the published statement.
Public figures are either public officials or limited-purpose public figures. These include politicians, famous business persons and celebrities, and government officials. Public figures have the high burden of proving the statement was made with actual malice, that is, the statement was made with the knowledge it was false or with a reckless disregard for the truth.
Defenses to Defamation
There are numerous defenses a defamer can raise to defend against a defamation action. These include:
- The defendant’s statement was actually true
- Statute of limitations
- The defendant actually never said anything about the plaintiff
- The statement was never published
- The statement was not made negligently or with malice
- The statement was an opinion or fair comment on a matter of public interest
- The statement was privileged.
One common misconception is that the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects all speech. The Free Speech clause is not absolute. As the Supreme Court of the United States recognized, “there is no constitutional value in false statements of fact.”
What Can A Plaintiff Recover In a Defamation Case?
Damages a plaintiff can recover in a defamation case differs from each case and will largely depend on the unique circumstances of the case at hand. Generally, our Santa Rosa defamation lawyer can help a successful defamation plaintiff obtain:
- General damages – these include damages that the plaintiff sustained for their loss of reputation, shame endured, mortification, and their hurt feelings
- Special damages – these include damages to the plaintiff’s loss of property, income, employability, and professional or business reputation.
- Punitive damages – these damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter others from engaging in engregious behavior in the future.
How Long Do You Have To Bring A Defamation Claim?
Under California Code of Civil Procedure section 340, a defamation action must be brought within one year from the date on which the defamatory statement was first made. As soon as possible you’ll want to speak with our Santa Rosa defamation lawyer to assess whether you can bring a defamation claim.
How Can a Santa Rosa Defamation Lawyer Help?
Defamation cases can be challenging. On top of the complex legal issues involved, the defamation attorneys at the Law Office of Kasra Parsad understand how difficult it can be to cope with a damaged reputation following a defamatory statement. At our firm, we believe you and your family should not have to accept a damaged reputation without a fight. You and your loved ones deserve justice, answer, closure, and the right compensation when the profoundly wicked or negligent statement of another damages your reputation. The Law Office of Kasra Parsad can help explain the requirements and guide you throughout the process. As soon as possible, you’ll want to contact our Santa Rosa defamation attorney to assess your options. You never know how a competent lawyer may be able to help you, so there is nothing to lose by getting in touch with our office. Our complimentary consultation comes at no cost and we work diligently on your behalf.
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