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How is libel per se different from other forms of defamation?

On Behalf of | Aug 3, 2023 | Defamation

Defamation can occur when false statements about a person or entity harm their reputation. It is a civil wrong, also known as a tort, that can harm one’s reputation through spoken words (slander) or written or printed material (libel).

Both forms of defamation can result in severe consequences, leading to legal actions and significant damages to the affected party.

What is libel per se?

Libel per se is a specific type of libel that critically differs from traditional libel cases. The term “per se” is Latin for “in itself,” indicating that certain false statements are so inherently damaging that the affected party does not need to prove specific damages to their reputation. In other words, the statement is presumed to cause harm without the need for additional evidence.

To better understand libel per se, it is essential to recognize its distinguishing characteristics, the most obvious being its defamatory nature. Statements that qualify as libel per se must be inherently defamatory. This means that the words, without any additional context, convey false information that harms the subject’s reputation. For instance, accusing an individual of committing a heinous crime without any factual basis is a classic example of libel per se. Such allegations can seriously damage a person’s reputation, even if they are entirely false.

The significance of libel per se

Libel per se cases are particularly noteworthy because they simplify the burden of proof for the plaintiff. Unlike regular libel cases, where proving damages can be challenging and time-consuming, libel per se assumes that certain statements are inherently harmful, leaving the plaintiff to focus on demonstrating the falsity of the statements and their defamatory nature.

Furthermore, in libel per se cases, the damages awarded to the plaintiff tend to be more substantial, as the harm is presumed rather than requiring concrete evidence. This acts as a deterrent to potential defamers and helps protects individuals from baseless attacks on their reputations.