What Is a Defamatory Statement? Expert Insights from Mullen Law Firm


A defamatory statement is a publication of false facts that harms the reputation of another. Learn the elements of defamation and more in this guide.

Everything You Should Know About Defamatory Statements

A defamatory statement is a misrepresentation of facts that causes someone to be hated, ridiculed, shunned, or harm their business or trade, causing reputational damage to them. It is classified as a civil wrong (a “tort,” in the legal world).

Defamation occurs when a false or inaccurate statement is made or published about a plaintiff to a third party intentionally or negligently, causing the plaintiff injury or damage.

A false statement purporting to be fact must have been made to a third party to establish defamation. A comment made or written just to themselves cannot legally be called defamation.

Defamation can be divided into two categories: libel and slander. Slander is a spoken defamatory statement. In contrast, libel law encompasses written slanderous declarations published in online articles, newspapers, blogs, social media postings, etc.

If you are a victim of defamatory statements or slander, you should contact a trustworthy defamation attorney. Call the Mullen Law Firm at 201-275-1025 for a consultation on your case.

How Do You Know If a Statement is Defamatory?

The fact that someone makes defamatory statements does not inevitably make that person liable for defamation. The individual who commented had to have done something wrong. The level of behavior that must be met to find someone accountable for defamation varies depending on who was defamed.

In some states, some types of utterances are automatically declared defamatory. These types of statements often are called defamatory “per se.” Statements that claim the plaintiff has committed a major, notorious, or immoral crime, has an infectious or revolting condition, or is incompetent in his employment, trade, or profession are considered defamatory “per se.” Per see, statements are automatically assumed to harm the plaintiff’s reputation without the need for proof.

The Basics Elements Of Defamation

Here are the grounds for a defamation lawsuit:

The Statement Should Be Made

Words can all be used to make a statement, whether spoken or intended to be read, signs, or tangible representations.

The Statement Must Be Defamatory

Defamation occurs when someone makes a false and unfavorable comment, and the individual who makes the defamatory statement may be held accountable.

The Statement Should Refer to the Plaintiff’s

The defamatory statement should be directed at the individual. The reference may be implied or explicit. The plaintiff’s name should not be revealed, but the statement should include some identifiable features.

The Intention of the Wrongdoer

The person making the defamatory statement is aware that a third party hearing the statement will believe it to be genuine, causing damage to the person’s reputation and exposing the person to defamation.

    The Statement Should Be False

    The truth defends defamation; hence a defamatory statement should be a false statement of fact. Defamation requires the untruth of the statement to be present. Thus if the statement is accurate, there is no defamation.

    The Statement Must Be Published

    The statement must be published and communicated to a third party for defamation to occur.

    The Defamatory Information Should Be Factual. According to the Third Party

    The other members of society to whom the remark was made believe the defamatory thing about the plaintiff is accurate.

    The Statement Must Cause Injury

    The plaintiff should be harmed or injured somehow due to the person’s statement. 

      When Can a Defamation Suit Be Filed?

      The supreme court has established standards of fault for private figures and public figures. In most states, if the person defamed was a private figure, the person who made the defamatory statement can only be held accountable for defamation if they:

      • Were aware that they were false statements and defamatory.
      • Had reckless disregard for whether it was true or false.
      • Failed to properly fact-check the statement before making it.

      Where the victim is a public figure, the plaintiff must prove actual malice to be successful with a defamation claim. A public figure must prove that the person who made the defamatory statement did so with deliberate intent to harm or reckless disregard for the truth.

      In addition to the plaintiff’s need to prove their case, they must prove that a reasonable person would believe the statement was false and defamatory and that it caused injury or damage.

      In the end, if you feel that someone has defamed or slandered you, contact an experienced defamation attorney. The Mullen Law Firm has been helping victims of defamation for over thirty years. We will aggressively pursue a favorable outcome on your behalf.

      When Can’t You Sue for Defamation? 

      In certain instances, you cannot successfully sue someone for defamation. You cannot sue someone for monetary damages if the allegedly defamatory statement is:

      • Factual – If the statements are true, then one of the elements of defamation, the statement’s falsity, can’t be proved.
      • Opinion – People have an unrestricted right to voice their thoughts about others.
      • Wire service defense (usually in cases of public figures) – This is when someone republishes a news item from a reputable news agency that they did not know the information was false. The news item on its face does not indicate any reason to doubt its veracity, and they didn’t substantially alter the news items when republishing it.
      • A comment made or written just to themselves cannot be used to defame them. A statement must have been made to a third party to establish defamation.

      Because of the complexities involved in establishing defamation cases, it is prudent to hire a lawyer experienced with defamation law to help you establish whether the statement was inaccurate or untrue or if it was not protected under the law.


      How Can an Attorney Help Fight Defamatory Statements?

      Filing a defamation lawsuit is difficult for many people, and they need both legal assistance and emotional support to move forward.

      The challenge of proving things in court can be daunting. The chances of having rock-solid proof are rare, so having an experienced attorney by your side can be very helpful in these scenarios.

      An experienced attorney will help you in judicial proceedings, prepare proof of defamatory material, and help you maintain your professional reputation. This way, you can get compensation for your losses and restore your public reputation to live again with honor.

      Moreover, depending on the unique facts of your case, the attorney will help you analyze the entire situation and come up with a legal course of action you agree upon. Ideally, you will clear the air via the legal process without negatively impacting your reputation.


      Hiring a Defamation Law Firm for a Defamation Action Against Verbal or Written Statements

      Although many people think the First Amendment (freedom of speech) protects them, many elements of a potentially defamatory statement tend to injure public or private figures. A false statement violates defamation laws, and courts rule against them.

      Hire a professional defense attorney if you have been inaccurately accused of something verbally or in written form on the Internet.

      Defamation claims are complex and often require a skilled lawyer to prove special damages against the plaintiff.

      Choosing a law firm that offers a solid attorney-client relationship with an experienced lawyer may be helpful to you.

      If you’re ready to begin exploring your legal options with a top-rated defamation lawyer, contact Mullen Law Firm for a free consultation today. Today, we can assist you with your New Jersey or New York defamation case!

      Contact Our Firm