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A Comprehensive Guide to New York Defamation Law


Under New York defamation law, speech that is used to unjustly harm another person’s reputation is not protected. Learn more here from Mullen Law Firm.

Basics of New York Defamation Law

When it comes to New York defamation law, there must be a balance between one person’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech and another person’s right to safeguard their reputation and good name. Sometimes, a person may not know what speech violates New York defamation laws and which kind is safe and permissible under the law. The following will give you an idea of the different types of defamation torts or claims.


What is Defamation?

A blanket term, defamation, is used to describe any false statement that will damage someone’s reputation or character. If the false statement is made in writing through a publication or an Internet forum, for example, this is known as libel.


What is Slander?

If the false statement is made verbally through a public speech or a YouTube video, for example, it is called slander. Defamatory statements tend to injure the victims in a variety of ways, with common damages including lost earnings, mental pain and suffering, humiliation, and lost reputation.

Why Do You Need a Defamation Attorney?

In New York, defamation is a civil matter. A person who suffers financial or emotional damages following another person’s false statement may choose to sue the offender, which would bring about a case in the appropriate New York court.

This is where your attorney has to prove in the New York Courts that the false oral statement constitutes defamation. This is why working with an expert who has handled several defamation lawsuits, whether for public or private figures, and clearly understands the New York defamation laws.

Whether you are considering filing a lawsuit against someone who made a defamatory statement against you or you are being unjustly accused of defamation in New York, hiring a skilled defamation attorney like those at Mullen Law Firm to represent you is essential to ensure a favorable resolution. When you reach out to our attorneys, we will work diligently to protect your rights through all stages of the case.

Overview of Defamation Law New York

If you are facing a defamation claim, it is important to keep in mind that New York State defamation law walks the line between a person avoiding defamation following a defamatory statement and freedom of speech.

It is reasonable that a person is entitled to free speech and not be subject to New York’s defamation claim laws when they make a statement that is negative but true about someone else. However, people also have a right not to have defamatory statements made about them so their reputation will not be damaged without a just cause. 

Defamation laws vary based on state, but some elements remain the same no matter where you live in the United States. You must be able to prove the following elements, known as a cause of action, to win a defamation lawsuit:

  • A statement was made about you, verbally or in writing.
  • The defamation statement was published by a media outlet.
  • The statement resulted in the injury of your character or reputation.
  • The statement was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, false.
  • The statement was considered to be without privilege.

Determining what is true and what is false per se is considered an absolute defense that will end a defamation case once proven, but the cause of action generally involves false statements, and the plaintiff must show that harm was done to them as a result of the false statements.

The side that wins may then sue for punitive damages and/or compensatory damages or other special damages, if they wish, with the help of an attorney who is experienced in handling defamation claims.

Internet Defamation of Character Law New York

Unfortunately, due to the advent of the Internet, it is now easier than ever to commit defamation against another person. This is largely due to social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter allowing instant publication that can be seen by millions of other users.

It does not matter if the post is a disparaging status update about another person, a not-so-nice blog post, or a defamatory statement made in a YouTube video — they have all been treated the same way as any other statement published under New York law. This means you can be sued for statements published online even if you have deleted them per se.

As a top New York, NY internet defamation lawyer, Mullen Law Firm is dedicated to protecting individuals’ and entities’ rights to freedom of expression and to take action against defamatory statements.

Whether you are the plaintiff public or private figure or the defendant in a judicial proceeding, we will take swift action on your behalf regarding the claim for defamation and apply our extensive knowledge and experience to achieve the outcome you desire. We will do everything possible to help New York Courts recognize the defamatory material to help you maintain your professional reputation. Contact us today for more information.

Libel, Defamation, and Slander: New York Law for Public Figures

Even though our local, state, and federal governments place a high priority on being able to speak your mind and allowing everyone their Constitutional right to freedom of speech, public figures often receive less protection than a private figure against defamatory statements in New York.

They also may have a more difficult time winning a defamation case in comparison to the average private figure.

This includes government officials. When a government official is criticized for their behavior in New York and wishes to pursue a defamation claim against the person who made the critical statement, they must prove that the statement was made with malicious intent.

Hence, officials can typically only win their case when the defamatory statement wasn’t an honest mistake. This means the person who made it knew it was not true, or it was not made with reckless disregard or actual malice. Celebrities also face these unique obstacles, as they must prove actual malice was involved in the statement made against them.

The situation gets worse with the verbal defamation cases where it gets hard to prove defamation. If the statement is about the legitimate public concern or the person claims to use his or her qualified privilege of speaking, the case would be hard to deal with.

Public Figures & Defamation Per Se in New York

For the public figure plaintiff to win in these high-profile situations in New York, the defamation often needs to be considered defamation per se, which is a type of defamatory statement that is so damaging that the defamation is automatically presumed harmful as per common law malice, such as a false accusation that the public figure committed a serious crime.

In sharp contrast to other types of defamation, such as defamation per quod, there is no room for nuance in these cases. Additionally, if the defamatory publication was made out of public concern, this further complicates things.

If you are a public figure who has suffered significant damages following the publication of a false statement against you, Mullen Law Firm would like to hear from you.


How Can A Defamation Lawyer Help?

When you meet with our NYC Internet lawyers, we will listen to your side of the story and help you begin building a strong case to prove your claim for defamation and pursue punitive damages, compensatory damages, and/or special damages to compensate for your losses.

We have handled several online defamation cases and get them through the legislative proceedings to prove damages caused to a reasonable person on a common interest privilege. Book a free consultation with our attorneys to understand how official proceedings will begin in case of sexual misconduct along with other legal elements.

However, the New York statute of limitations for defamation is one year from the date the incident of defamation per se occurred, so you must act fast to ensure that you have plenty of time to build a case against the person or entity that published the false statement.

What to Do If You Are Accused of Violating New York State Defamation Law

What should you do if you are accused of making a defamatory statement in New York State? The first thing you should do when you are accused of making defamatory statements is to call the experienced New York, NY legal representatives at Mullen Law Firm.

If you have a business and you are accused, you should see if your insurance covers advertising injury. This means your insurance could potentially cover the cost of an Internet defamation attorney

Typically, they have a list of approved attorneys, but your own attorney could possibly be covered if you request their use. Keep in mind, though, that you only have 21 days to respond to a claim. If you do not tell your insurance company that you are being sued for defamation, you could lose your insurance coverage.

Next Steps of Your Defamation Lawsuit in New York as a Defendant

The next best thing you can do to help yourself when accused of defamation is to listen to your attorney, promptly respond to them, and follow their advice.

For example, if your attorney tells you that discovery was requested, you should do your best to provide them with all evidence and requested materials that can strengthen your defense against defamation claims.

Even if you made a statement when you were angry, it could portray you in a bad light. You will need to share your history with your lawyer, but rest assured that anything you say is protected under attorney-client privilege and can’t be shared with a third party.


Why You Should Hire an Attorney for Defamatory Statements

The unfortunate reality is that if you are accused of defamation, you will need to spend time and money defending yourself. If you find yourself facing the worst-case scenario, you can expect to pay up to six figures if your case goes to trial.

A loss of a defamation trial can also damage your reputation or the reputation of your business. If you are a business owner, there are a few things you can do to avoid your case going to trial:

  • Train your employees to be careful about making verbal or written statements about another public or private person or business, especially if the libel or slander can be seen as disparaging.
  • Make sure you include clauses in the employee handbook to limit liability in the event an employee makes a disparaging comment.
  • Purchase insurance that will pay to defend you if you have to go to court for making a disparaging statement about someone else.

Likes, posts, tweets, shares, and other forms of electronic communication have made it easier than ever to be sued for defamation. Do your best to avoid a defamation suit by being cautious about what written and verbal statements you make.


Consult with Expert Defamation Lawyers in New York

If you are accused of committing defamation in New York, or someone else has made a disparaging comment against you, it is wise to learn more about defamation law and what your rights are by consulting a First Amendment lawyer before the one-year statute of limitations runs out.

The lawyers at Mullen Law Firm can review your case and look at the laws in your area to see if you should file a claim and determine the best defense for you. Contact us today at (201) 420-1911 to begin taking swift and strategic action to protect your rights, freedom, and reputation. 

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