Your Guide to Defamation in Print


Have you been charged with defamation in print? Don’t worry. Mullen Law Firm may be able to help you. Book a free consultation call with us today.

Your Guide to Defamation in Print

Have you been charged with defamation in print? Don’t worry. Mullen Law Firm may be able to help you. Book a free consultation call with us today.

What Is Defamation in Print?

In today’s world, the media plays a massive role in shaping public opinions. Unfortunately, this has allowed newspaper publications and social media to ridicule individuals and businesses.

Lies and false publications against specific individuals spread quickly. These lies may damage the individual’s reputation and self-esteem.

Defamation in print, also known as libel, is a false written statement. It is usually made through a newspaper or social media publication. Defamation may also occur through spoken words (slander). Still, libel is considered more harmful than oral false statements.

A spoken word, if not broadcasted, fades from memory. But, written statements, especially those on social media, are often reshared.


Libel is a civil wrong that involves offensive statements against an individual or entity, exposing them to public hatred, contempt, ridicule, or disgrace. Most times, the defamatory statement allows for the assumption of malicious intent.

In such cases, general damages are awarded, such as damages for ruining a person’s reputation. Courts may award other damages after looking at the circumstances of the case.

Some common examples of defamatory statements are:

  • A newspaper falsely publishing that you are a rapist;
  • False accusatory statements made against you by your employee on a company group.

You can take legal action if someone publishes a libelous statement against you. Consulting an experienced defamation lawyer who can help protect your rights may be a good idea.

Libel and Defamation Law

The First Amendment safeguards a person’s right to freedom of speech. Yet, this doesn’t mean a person can say whatever they please. The law protects individuals from the harm of lies.

To successfully bring a print defamation claim, certain elements must exist. These elements vary from state to state but are generally similar. Under New York defamation law, the elements of defamation are:

  • That a false statement was made

  • The false statement was published to a third party without authorization or privilege

  • The fault amounted to malicious intent or at least negligence

  • The statement was the cause of particular harm or defamation

The plaintiff must show that the information was published maliciously or with reckless disregard. For instance, public officials and public figures in a defamation lawsuit must prove actual malice.

Under state law, there is a time limit for bringing libel claims. In New York and New Jersey, the statute of limitations for libel cases is one year. This means you have a year from the publication date to bring your claim.

Common Defenses Against Libel Claims


The Defense of Truth

You may have no legal recourse if your reputation is affected by truthful statements. Truth is a complete defense in a defamation case.

In libel cases, the courts will presume that the defamatory statements are false. The burden of proof is on the defendant to show that the statement is true. A defendant can use this defense if they can prove that the statements are substantially true.

New York courts look at the “sting” or “gist” of the statement to determine the truth. Defendants cannot rely on rumors made by third parties unless the rumor is true. Failure to persuade a judge will result in the court awarding damages in favor of the plaintiff.

The Defense of Opinion

To successfully apply this defense, you must show that the false statement was not a fact but an opinion. This defense reinforces an individual’s rights under the First Amendment.

Opinions are a form of free speech protected by the United States Constitution. They are ideas or statements that can neither be proved nor disproved.

This defense will hold if the opinion is based on true facts. It does not matter that the statements are biased or exaggerated. However, these facts must have existed before the publication of the statement.

The courts look at the reasonable man’s understanding of the statement. They rely on context and common sense logic when determining the statement’s meaning.

Privilege as a Defense

The defense of privilege protects individuals from defamation claims on certain occasions. Society benefits from information published without the fear of defamation suits.

There are different types of privileges protected under state and federal law:

  1. Absolute privilege: This is a complete defense, irrespective of whether the statement is false or malicious. It applies to publications made from statements in specific contexts or venues. For example, statements made at judicial or parliamentary proceedings.
  2. Qualified privilege: Qualified privilege is used in cases where the information is of public concern. It also applies in cases where the free communication of the statement is essential. Examples include arrest records, employee reference letters,
  3. Fair report: This protects the news and media outlets from claims involving the publication of official information. For instance, statements made by a judge in a trial or from police reports.

Types of Damages Awarded in Defamation in Print Cases

Courts award different types of damages based on the circumstances of the case. These include:

  1. Special damages: Courts award special damages to restore what the plaintiff lost. They are compensatory damages awarded for economic loss resulting from defamatory statements—for example, a loss of earning capacity or future profits.
  2. General damages: They are damages that compensate for the individual’s pain and suffering. Pain and suffering may result from mental anguish, depression, and humiliation.
  3. Punitive damages: Courts award punitive damages to punish the defendant. They award them in cases where there was malicious intent.
  4. Nominal damages: The court awards nominal damages to plaintiffs even if there was no actual financial loss. These damages are symbolic and don’t exceed a few hundred dollars.

Additionally, the court may issue an injunction or restraining order against the defendant to stop further publication of libelous statements.

No matter how you look at it, defamation is a serious crime that can lead to costly legal consequences. It pays to be aware of your rights when protecting yourself from defamatory word-of-mouth or print publications. Consulting with an experienced defamation attorney can help you navigate the complexities of this area of law. An experienced defamation lawyer will be able to advise and guide you through the process and provide you with a successful outcome.


Contacting an Experienced Defamation Lawyer


Published defamatory statements can present unique challenges or concerns for you. Therefore, contacting a lawyer from the Mullen Law Firm can be helpful.

Our lawyers can analyze your case and advise you on handling the situation. We can help you:

  • With the legal process of removing libelous content from the media.
  • Provide legal representation and help you secure monetary damages in court.
  • Take swift action on your behalf, whether you are the plaintiff or defendant.
  • Apply our extensive knowledge and experience to achieve your desired outcome.
  • Counsel you on the possible defenses applicable to your case.

We at Mullen Law Firm will assist you in maintaining your professional reputation. Contact us for assistance with your defamation issues today. Schedule an initial free consultation with us at the earliest!

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