Defamation Per Se: Understanding the Legal Concept and Its Implications
Defamation is a false statement that injures another person’s reputation. Defamation can take two forms: libel (written defamation) and slander (oral defamation). In some cases, a false statement is considered so inherently harmful that it is considered “defamation per se,” meaning it is presumed to be damaging to a person’s reputation without any additional proof of harm.
What is Defamation Per Se?
Defamation per se is a legal concept that applies to a limited set of false statements that are considered so harmful that they are presumed to be defamatory. These statements include those that impute a criminal offense, suggest someone is infected with a contagious disease, imply a lack of ability or integrity in one’s trade or profession, or make false allegations about a person’s sexual conduct.
In cases of defamation per se, the person claiming to be defamed does not need to prove that the false statement caused any specific harm to their reputation. This is because the law recognizes that the statement itself is so damaging that it must have caused harm to the person’s reputation.
Implications of Defamation Per Se
If a false statement is considered defamation per se, the person making the statement may be liable for damages without the need to prove specific harm to the person’s reputation. This means that the person who was defamed may be able to recover damages for injury to their reputation, as well as for any other damages, such as lost income, that result from the false statement.
Additionally, in some states, a person who is a victim of defamation per se may be entitled to receive “punitive damages,” which are damages awarded to punish the person who made the false statement and to deter similar behavior in the future.
Defending Against Defamation Per Se Claims
If you have been accused of making a false statement that is considered defamation per se, it is important to seek legal advice from an experienced attorney. Defenses against defamation per se claims may include proving that the statement is true, proving that the statement was made in the course of a privileged communication, such as a statement made in the course of a judicial proceeding, or proving that the statement was made in the public interest.
Defamation per se is a legal concept that applies to a limited set of false statements that are considered so harmful that they are presumed to be defamatory. If you have been accused of making a false statement that is considered defamation per se, it’s essential to seek legal advice from an experienced attorney to defend against the claim and protect your rights.