What Must You Prove To Win A Defamation Lawsuit?

Winning a slander or libel lawsuit is no small feat, especially in America. The United States is home to the most defendant-friendly defamation laws in the world, and claimants must overcome high hurdles to win.

Defamation of Character: Legal Parameters

  • Falsity: For a judge to consider waving through a slander or libel lawsuit, the initial claim must clearly identify a false and unprivileged statement of fact – not just a negative opinion – about the plaintiff. Examples:
    1. Not Defamatory: “John Doe is a $#!+head.”
    2. Defamatory (if untrue): “John Doe has a contagious, fatal disease; that’s why I think he’s a $#!+head.”
  • Harm: It’s not enough to prove that a defendant said something inaccurate. Plaintiffs also must prove that the contested language directly caused material harm to befall the claimant. The exception to this rule is defamation per se – or inherent defamation – which you can read about here.
  • Intent: Perhaps the trickiest part of winning a defamation lawsuit is proving the defendant purposefully lied, or acted with egregious disregard for the truth. To put it another way, if defendants can adequately argue they had every reason to believe their statements were true, they can, sometimes, win.