Defamation refers to a statement which injures another person or party’s reputation, such as slander or libel. In Arizona, you can file a tort lawsuit against the person or entity whose actions caused defamation of your character. Learn more about how you can protect your rights and reputation from the Arizona defamation attorneys at Lerner and Rowe Injury Attorneys.
What’s the Difference Between Libel and Slander?
Libel is written or published communication (this may include words, pictures, or cartoons) of a fact or assertion that is false. Publishing false information without a source, through printed media or via written letters may all be considered libel.
On the other hand, slander refers to a spoken false statement or assertion about someone. Calling someone names or spreading rumors about them by word of mouth would both be considered slander.
What Are the Elements in an Arizona Defamation Case?
In order to meet the definition of defamation, a lawsuit must contain four fundamental elements.
- The defendant made a statement about the plaintiff that was both defamatory and false.
- The defendant shared this statement with a third party.
- The defendant knew (or should have known) that the statement was (or might be) false.
- The statement caused damage to the plaintiff’s reputation, finances, or both.
A Note on Per Se and Per Quod Defamation
Arizona recognizes both per se defamation and per quod defamation. Per se defamation includes libel or slander that contains blatant false statements whose damaging effects are immediate and obvious. This might include accusing someone of committing a serious criminal offense, having an infectious disease, conducting unethical behavior in their line of business, or of lacking chastity.
In contrast, per quod defamation refers to false statements that are implicit rather than explicit. What a defendant says or writes takes on a defamatory meaning in the context of their conversation or written materials. Per quod defamation is often more difficult to prove in court, and usually requires the assistance of a qualified Arizona defamation lawyer.
Who Can File a Defamation Lawsuit in Arizona?
Any individual whose case meets the four elements of defamation may technically file a lawsuit against the responsible party. However, plaintiffs may be held to different standards depending on their standing in the community.
Under Arizona defamation laws, anyone who is considered a “public figure” can be held to a higher standard of proof when pursuing a defamation lawsuit. Public figures may include local celebrities, elected officials, government employees, sheriffs, deputies, teachers, and even members of a school’s student body.
A person who is very famous or who has achieved a high level of notoriety may also be considered an “all-purpose” public figure. In contrast, someone may become a “limited-purpose” public figure if they willingly seek attention or involve themselves in a public controversy. However, Arizona does not automatically consider a plaintiff to be a public figure based solely on their participation in an advertising campaign.
If someone is considered a public figure, they or their Arizona defamation attorneys must prove that the defendant acted maliciously in spreading false statements—i.e., they knowingly made a false statement about the plaintiff or made a statement they had reason to believe may not be true.
Private figures are not held to the same burden of proof in a defamation case. They or their legal representation need only to meet common law negligence standards to move forward with a civil lawsuit.
What Damages Can I Sue For in a Defamation Lawsuit?
Unlike many personal injury cases in which the plaintiff is primarily compensated for physical injuries, the damages awarded to plaintiffs in defamation cases usually include the mental, social, and financial toll of defamation. Slander and libel lawyers may be able to obtain compensation on behalf of their clients for the following damages:
- Injury to or loss of reputation
- Injury to or loss of community standing (present and future)
- Emotional distress
- Monetary loss
- Punitive damages
Retractions and Corrections
In defamation cases that do not involve a public figure and which concern print, broadcast, or telephone communications, sometimes a plaintiff’s only legal recourse is a retraction or correction of the defamatory, slanderous, or libelous statement. If an outlet fails to retract or correct a false statement within a specified time frame, they may be ordered by the court to pay punitive damages.
How Long Do I Have to File a Defamation Claim?
The statute of limitations on Arizona defamation claims is one year from the date the libelous or slanderous material was published or spoken. However, if defamatory material is deliberately kept hidden from a plaintiff, that plaintiff has one year from the date of discovery of the false statement(s) to file a lawsuit.
Get Legal Help From Our Arizona Defamation Attorneys
If you believe you have been a victim of defamation, legal recourse (possibly including monetary compensation) is available. The legal team at Lerner and Rowe Injury Attorneys is accessible around the clock to assist those whose reputations have been harmed by libel or slander. Our Phoenix personal injury lawyers even offer free consultations to review the details of your case and go over all your legal options, with no obligation to hire us. Should you decide to move forward with our services, you won’t pay us any fees until we’ve made a recovery on your behalf.
To get in touch with our experienced Arizona defamation attorneys, call us 24/7 at 602-977-1900. You can also connect with a representative online by using our convenient LiveChat feature, or by filling out this brief intake form.