Libel versus Slander Lawyers
What is the Difference between Libel and Slander?
Libel usually takes the form of a written down statement injuring your reputation while slander is an oral expression. Libel can thus be thought of as defamation by sight while slander would be defamation conveyed by sound. However, most courts consider modern broadcasts, such as movies, television, and radio, as libel.
Why Does the Distinction Matter?
- Damages in Defamation Cases – General damages may be awarded to a plaintiff if his reputation has been injured. In such case, the plaintiff is allowed to recover compensation without any proof beyond the defamatory nature of the statement(s). This compensation covers the emotional trauma and harm suffered by the plaintiff. Sometimes, however, the plaintiff must prove a specific type of loss in order to prevail. These are “special damages.” This includes specific economic losses, such as lost profits, that resulted from the defamation. These are often hard to prove. If the plaintiff can prove his special damages, he may then recover general damages. Whether a plaintiff must prove special damages depends on whether the defamation is considered libel or slander.
- Libel and Libel Per Quod – Most courts allow any plaintiff claiming libel to recover general damages. These damages are presumed from the harm to the plaintiff’s reputation. Some states have made a distinction between libel per se (libel on its face) from libel per quod (requiring extrinsic evidence). For libel per quod, the plaintiff must show special damages unless the libel falls into a “slander per se” category.
- Slander and Slander Per Se – If the defamation is characterized as slander, the plaintiff will most likely have to prove special damages. However, some statements are deemed so horrible that they are “slanderous per se,” requiring no additional proof of special damages. These include:
- Attacks on the plaintiff’s competence to perform adequately in his profession
- Claiming the plaintiff has a loathsome disease
- Alleging that the plaintiff has engaged in serious criminal misbehavior
- Suggesting a that a woman is immorally impure
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Last Modified: 08-10-2009 11:26 AM PDT
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