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3 key elements of defamation 

On Behalf of | Jul 1, 2024 | Defamation

In a nutshell, defamation is a false statement made to a third party that causes reputational damage. This can happen orally and in writing. Written defamation is referred to as libel. 

In cases where defamation is established, the affected party may be entitled to financial compensation for reputational damage. Nonetheless, the law in this area can be quite complex. Here are 3 key elements of defamation:

1. The statement must be false 

The first element in defamation cases is a materially false statement of fact. A true statement cannot be defamatory. A genuinely held opinion based on facts is also not defamatory, even if that opinion is negative. 

For example, if someone leaves a bad review after not enjoying a meal at a restaurant, this would not be defamation. However, if someone claimed they were poisoned by the restaurant when they were not, in an attempt to maliciously harm the reputation of the owners, this would be defamatory. 

2. The statement must be seen or heard 

Another important element of defamation is that the statement must be seen or heard by third parties. A private comment made to a friend may not count as defamation unless that statement subsequently gets spread around. The same can be said for a statement made in a private message online. 

False and damaging statements made in public, or on a public online forum, may be defamatory. The difference here is that multiple third parties are likely to have seen the statement, thus there would be damage to reputation. 

3. There must be actual damages 

Another important element of defamation is that there must be quantifiable damages. The reputation of the defamed party must be damaged. If this is the case, then the defamed party could argue that they have lost money due to the reputational damage.  

If you have been defamed, it’s important to act quickly to limit reputational damage. Seeking accurate legal information should be the first port of call.