In general terms, defamation refers to a wrongful and unprivileged injury to the reputation of another person or business. New Mexico defamation law is covered in Chapter 41, Section 7 of the New Mexico Statutes Annotated (NMSA 41-7-1 to NMSA 41-7-6). It includes libel and slander, which are both types of defamation.
If someone has said or written false things about you that have negatively impacted your reputation—whether on the Internet, in a newspaper, or within your own workplace—you may be able to sue the responsible party in civil court. With the help of the New Mexico defamation attorneys at Lerner and Rowe Injury Attorneys, you can get the compensation you deserve and restore your reputation.
The Difference Between Libel and Slander
Although often used interchangeably, there is an important distinction between libel and slander. Under New Mexico Statutes 30-11-1, libel refers to “making, writing, publishing, selling or circulating without good motives and justifiable ends, any false and malicious statement affecting the reputation, business or occupation of another, or which exposes another to hatred, contempt, ridicule, degradation or disgrace.” Libelous materials may include books, newspapers, magazines, signs, and statements posted online, as well as graphics and cartoons.
Slander, on the other hand, refers to spoken defamatory material. This may include videos, sound recordings, telephone conversations, and word of mouth. Whether it is libel or slander, it’s important to note that a statement is only considered defamatory when it is both false and injures another person.
Elements of a New Mexico Defamation Claim
In order to establish a valid New Mexico defamation claim, you will need to include the following four elements in your case, per NMSA 41-7-1.
- A false and defamatory communication was made about the plaintiff.
- The named defendant published the defamatory communication.
- The defendant shared the communication with a third person or party.
- The defamatory communication caused actual injury to the plaintiff.
Defamation Per Se and Defamation Per Quod
In addition to the distinction between libel and slander, New Mexico also recognizes two different kinds of defamation cases: defamation per se and defamation per quod. According to the New Mexico Court of Appeals, a statement is defamation per se if it “without any reference to extrinsic facts, stripped of all insinuations, innuendos and explanatory circumstances, must tend to render the plaintiff contemptible or ridiculous in public estimation, or expose him to public hatred, contempt or disgrace.” In other words, the damaging effects of libel or slander per se should be immediate and obvious to the average person.
A statement may be considered defamation per se if it accuses the plaintiff of:
- Committing a morally reprehensible crime
- Infection with a disease that would ostracize a person in society
- Being unfit to perform the duties of an office or employment for profit
- Anything that would prejudice the plaintiff in their profession or trade
- Being an unchaste woman
On the other hand, defamation per quod refers to statements which may seem innocent on the surface but have a deeper defamatory meaning. If a statement becomes defamatory because it is linked to innuendo or explanatory circumstances, it may be considered libel or slander per quod. Proving a defamation per quod case will require significant supporting evidence.
Opinions Versus Facts
Not all negative statements qualify as defamation. This is why New Mexico takes note of the distinction between opinion and fact. In order for a personal injury claim to be successful, New Mexico defamation attorneys must prove the statement(s) made were false statements of fact. As such, the courts must consider the entirety of the publication in question, without resorting to speculation.
They must also determine whether a reasonable person reading the publication would consider the statement an expression of opinion, and whether the publication fully discloses the facts upon which the plaintiff’s opinion is based. If this is the case and a reasonable reader would reach their own conclusion, the court may rule that the statement is an opinion and privileged.
Find Out if You Have a New Mexico Defamation Case
If you believe you or your business has been the victim of defamation, the New Mexico defamation attorneys at Lerner and Rowe Injury Attorneys can help guide you through the claims process and obtain a fair settlement, both for your economic losses and damage to your reputation.
While most private citizen defamation cases require only proof of negligence, those who are considered public figures by New Mexico may be held to a higher burden of proof, including evidence of actual malice by the defendant. This makes having an experienced lawyer with a proven track record on your side is an absolute must.
To request a free, no obligation consultation about your defamation case with our team of New Mexico personal injury lawyers, call us at 575-544-4444. Our intake team is available 24/7 by phone or online through our LiveChat service. You can also reach out to us by filling out and submitting this form. Should you decide to move forward with our New Mexico defamation attorneys, know that you won’t pay us anything until we make a financial recovery on your behalf—that’s our no fee promise.