You invested considerable time, energy and money in your media career, and you work hard to protect your professional reputation. Recently, you learned about someone spreading rumors about you. Do you have a legal case?
Chron breaks down the four pillars of defamation. If all four apply to your situation, you could act against the offending party.
The first pillar of defamation is the written or spoken statement must be untrue. Even then, in 2009, the 1st Circuit stated that even true statements may qualify as defamation if the party accused of defamation made the statement with actual malice.
Another pillar of defamation is “published.” In civil law, that means a third party aside from the plaintiff and defendant must hear the harmful statement. If the statement goes no further than the accused and the defamed party, it may not qualify as defamation.
When a witness makes a statement during a trial, even if that statement qualifies as false and harmful, the court considers it privileged, meaning you cannot sue for defamation. To qualify as defamation, the statement must fall outside the realm of legal privilege.
The last pillar of defamation is “injurious.” This means the statement must harm your professional reputation. For instance, if someone who could help or hinder your media career bases his or her decision to not work with you on a defamatory statement, that could qualify as defamation.
You must think beyond your initial emotional reaction to rumors and consider whether the statements meet all four pillars of defamation. Getting the facts may save you a lot of time and energy.