Libel is a legal term referring to false and malicious statements made in writing that can damage a person’s reputation. Any individual or organization has the right to sue for libel if they believe that they have been defamed. In this article, we provide a quick and comprehensive overview of libel lawsuits, including their definition, process and potential outcomes.
What is Libel?
Libel refers to a defamatory statement that is made in writing. Such statements are false and deliberately fabricated to harm an individual’s reputation. To qualify as actionable libel, three elements must be present in the case. These include:
- Publication: The plaintiff must prove that the libelous statement was published or distributed to at least one person other than himself.
- Identification: The plaintiff must show that the statement is about him/herself, and an ordinary person could recognize him or her from the statement.
- Defamatory statement: The statement must be untrue, causing considerable injury or harm to the plaintiff’s reputation.
Suing for Libel: The Process
To initiate a libel lawsuit, the plaintiff must follow a specific process. The steps include:
- Consult with an Attorney: First, consult with an experienced attorney to assess the strength of a libel case and explore options.
- Notice to the Publisher: Before filing a libel claim, the potential plaintiff must give notice to the publisher or author. This notice usually outlines the alleged false statements and harm caused to the plaintiff’s reputation.
- Filing a Lawsuit: If the publisher does not retract the statements or refuses to settle the case, the plaintiff can file a lawsuit in state or federal court.
- Discovery: During discovery, both parties obtain facts and evidence to support their claims. This may include documents, interviews, and depositions.
- Trial: After conducting discovery, the case goes to trial. The trial typically involves presenting evidence and witnesses to support the plaintiff’s libel claim.
- Verdict: The court decides whether the defendant is guilty of libel and awards damages to the plaintiff if there is a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor.
The outcomes of libel lawsuits depend on the specifics of the case. However, if a plaintiff is successful in a libel case, the court may award the following types of damages:
- Compensatory damages: This type of damage aims to compensate the plaintiff for the injury they suffered. The plaintiff may recover damages for any harm or loss of income they experienced due to the defamation.
- Punitive damages: Courts may award punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages. This type of award is meant to punish defendants for their wrongdoing and deter them from repeating similar actions in the future.
Libel lawsuits have to follow a very specific process. Each step in the process is essential for a successful claim. Consulting with an experienced attorney can help determine the strength of a libel case, and guide a claimant through the procedures, from the notice stage to the trial and verdict. If successful in a libel lawsuit, the plaintiff can recover damages for their injuries, helping to restore their reputation and credibility.