Defamation Per Se New York: Everything You Need to Know

When a defamation claim is brought in the Empire State, the defamatory statement may be labeled “defamation per se” if certain elements exist. Learn more in this guide to defamation per se in New York.

The Basics of Defamation Per Se New York

One of the best things about living in the United States is the guarantee of free speech as protected by the First Amendment. However, even though every American’s speech is protected under the First Amendment, there are limits to how far free speech can be exercised.

Some statements may cause more than hurt feelings or offense as they will result in actual damage. This can happen when false statements are circulated or communicated with the intent of costing companies or individuals their reputation, business, and money.

When such false statements are communicated, they may be what constitutes defamation. The First Amendment does not protect the actions of a person that is spreading defamatory material or statements. As such, those claiming that certain statements caused them actual harm can file a suit in a New York court to recover actual and punitive damages.

Court proceedings in New York courts can also be used to get orders to stop the defendant from spreading defamatory information or material.

If you live in New York and have been a victim of defamation on which you intend to bring a defamation case, then you should contact the Mullen Law Firm. We have worked with many clients to permanently and swiftly remove any defamatory statements and defamatory content and represent you in any judicial proceedings or defamation action.

New York Law & Defamation Per Se

Defamation is an all-encompassing legal term that may be defined as a false statement or communication to a third party that results in actual harm to another person’s reputation.

Defamation can usually be broken down into two types. If you intend to bring a defamation lawsuit or have a lawsuit brought against you, it is critical to know the difference between the two:

  1. Slander: This refers to speaking false statements to third parties which cause damages or harm to another person’s reputation.
  2. Libel: This is the published or written communication of a false statement to third parties that cause damage or harm to another person’s reputation

Some other standard terms that New York courts refer to alleged defamation include:

  • Disparagement
  • Character assassination
  • Vilification; and
  • Calumny

The official definition of defamation in New York is a statement that exposes another person or business to aversion, contempt, hatred, or induces an unsavory or evil opinion in the minds of a significant number of people in the community and causes special harm or constitutes defamation per se.

What Is Defamation Per Se as a Defamation Claim?

The tort of defamation usually refers to making a false written or spoken statement harmful to another’s reputation. However, some types of defamatory statements are deemed so harmful that they are considered defamatory on face value (defamation per se).

This is contrasted with defamation per quod, in which the false statement or defamatory content is not in itself defamatory but has to be analyzed in the context of other facts to the case.

Under New York defamation laws, defamation per se presumes false statements to be harmful even as under defamation per quod, one has to prove damages.


Understanding Defamation Per Se and the Categories

There are four general categories of untrue statements deemed harmful to another’s reputation which may qualify for an injury claim.

Under New York defamation law, if a statement does not fall under the following four categories, the plaintiff will have to prove damages.

Defamation lawsuits that fall into one of the four categories will usually have a presumption of damages.

The four general categories are:

  • Statements that an individual has been engaging in behavior incompatible with the proper ethical or professional conduct of his or her business trade.
  • Statements charging that a person has been engaging in criminal activity
  • Statements that a person has been engaging in sexual misconduct or is unchaste
  • Statements charging that a person has an infectious, contagious, or loathsome disease

For instance, an Alaskan woman made an allegedly defamatory statement accusing a man of false imprisonment and battery. According to the judicial proceeding, the statements imputed a serious crime, and there was no burden of proof of emotional distress or damage to reputation required.

In another case, a doctor sued his colleague for circulating a letter asserting that he had a reputation of being untruthful. The court held that this does not qualify as defamation per se, given that the doctor’s professional reputation was not injured.

In the summary judgment, the court held that it was up to him to prove loss of reputation and mental anguish suffered.

If you are thinking of bringing a defamation lawsuit or have been slapped with a defamation lawsuit, you need to contact the Mullen Law Firm today.

We always advise that you contact us as soon as possible to establish an attorney-client relationship. This helps us grasp the facts in your case and makes it easier to get a favorable outcome.

We have worked on all manner of defamation cases and can offer you the legal advice you need. We have internet defamation attorneys, defamation defense lawyers, and court trial lawyers who will help you get a favorable outcome.

Defamation Per Se New York Damages

Depending on the circumstances in your case, defamation courts in New York may award the following types of damages.

  1. General Damages – These are compensatory damages for future and past harm to the reputation that a person sustains in their community in addition to personal humiliation and emotional and mental anguish. 
  2. Exemplary or Punitive Damages – These are additional sums meant to set an example or punish the malicious or willful actions of a defendant. 
  3. Nominal Damages – This is a nominal sum awarded following defamation per se proceedings in which it was determined that the plaintiff did not suffer serious harm to their reputation. 
  4. Special Damages – These are compensatory damages for economic losses that result from allegedly defamatory statements. This may include anything from the loss of a job or the loss of profits. 

It is important to note that nominal damages may be awarded to a plaintiff even if no actual injury resulted from the defamation per se. 

If you are considering bringing a defamation lawsuit or have had a defamation lawsuit brought against you and intend to ask for damages, there is no one better to contact than a defamation lawyer. We have worked with both private figures and public figures in New York, and we may be able to help you get the justice you deserve. 

False Statement in New York: Defamation Laws and Standards

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure form the basis of New York Defamation Law. This sets out the formal procedures used in defamation claims and defamation lawsuits.

Pleadings are usually formal written statements that provide the details of a plaintiff’s claims, defenses, and issues in a judicial proceeding. The New York courts employ the following pleadings:

  • Complaint – The first pleading filed by a plaintiff that sets off the defamation lawsuit. It includes the plaintiff’s claims, establishes the issues, facts, and damages in the case and positions against the defendant.
  • Reply – The response a plaintiff gives to a defendant’s answer which usually follows the counterclaim by a defendant
  • Counterclaim refers to an opposing defamation claim made by a defendant to offset another defamation lawsuit in a legal proceeding.
  • Answer – This is a pleading brought by a defendant denying or admitting the specific claims and allegations detailed by the plaintiff in their complaint. The defendant’s answer usually argues why any claim by the defendant is invalid using relevant defenses.

The pleading requirements are usually dependent on the nature of specific claims. For instance, New York courts employ stricter procedural requirements or include exact or specific language in some areas of the law.

When someone brings a defamation claim in New York County or elsewhere in New York State, they would need to frame their complaint to include the particular words or defamatory statements as well as the where, when, and how the alleged defamation was made to whom.

Simply put, if you are filing for defamation under New York law, you will have to specify the following:

  • What – The particular alleged defamatory words the defendant used
  • When – The time the words or statements were published, written, or spoken
  • Where – Place where the words were published, written, or spoken
  • How – Manner in which the words were published, written, or spoken
  • Whom – Source or party to whom the false statements were made

New York laws have heightened pleading requirements, and this allows the courts to better comprehend whether the alleged defamatory statements are non-actionable or defamatory.

The heightened pleading requirements also make it possible for the defendant to understand the claim and the many issues in contention, which means they get a better chance of formulating an informed defense.

Our New York defamation lawyers will take into account a range of factors to design a strategy for your case. Some of this will include determination of whether there was negligence, actual malice, or reckless disregard about the truth of the statements, the manner of publication, and the actual damages suffered to determine if the case brought against you meets the standard of defamation in New York.

Defense Against Per Se Defamation New York State

The Mullen Law Firm in New York has represented persons looking for an aggressive defense when they have been accused of defamation and those that need to bring defamation lawsuits or any other official proceeding in defamation.

If you have been accused of making defamatory statements, we have experienced and skilled defamation attorneys that know all about the defenses you can use to fight defamation charges. 

For instance, you can fight a defamation case by claiming that such statements were an absolute privilege, legitimate pubic concern, common interest privilege, fair report privilege on a public figure, or substantial truth. Depending on the circumstances, the argument may be made that such statements were substantially accurate. 

It is also important to note that comments and opinions are not considered defamation. With extensive legal resources at our disposal, we can examine all the defenses available in a defamation suit under New York defamation law.

Given that defamation in New York has a very short statute of limitations, it is critical to contact a defamation attorney right away. If you have been defamed or are facing defamation, we may be able to help you get favorable outcomes. Contact the Mullen Law Firm, and we will have a defamation attorney ready to provide legal advice on how to move forward with your case.

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