What is Defamation?
The law of defamation consists of two separate actions, one being the action in libel and the other slander (both also refer to as types of defamation).
In an action for libel, the person who brings the suit (refer to as the Plaintiff) must prove that there is a defamatory statement made or conveyed by written or printed words, drawing, pictures or in some other permanent form, referring to the Plaintiff published to a third party (a person other than the Plaintiff). For statements published online, please click here to learn about Online/Cyber Defamation.
In an action for slander, the Plaintiff must prove that there is a defamatory statement made or conveyed by spoken words, sounds, gestures or in some other non-permanent form, referring to the Plaintiff is published to a third party (a person other than the Plaintiff).
The Elements to Prove Defamation (For Libel & Slander)
The Words Complained of Must Be Defamatory
A defamatory statement is a statement that:-
tends to lower a person in the estimation of right thinking members of society;
causes a person to be shunned or avoided or to expose him to hatred, contempt or ridicule; or
conveys an imputation on a person disparaging or injurious to his office, profession, calling, trade or business.
There are two methods of interpreting whether the words complained of is a defamatory statement:-
Natural and Ordinary Meaning refers to the literal or implied meaning or any meaning based on general knowledge that does not require the support of extrinsic facts or evidence.
Innuendo refers to words which have special meaning only to persons who have knowledge of some special background or fact. The Plaintiff would need to show how
The Defamatory Words Refers To the Plaintiff
The Plaintiff must prove that the words complained of referred to him and was published of and concerning him. Hence, the Plaintiff would need to prove that the words is capable to identify the Plaintiff and the reasonable persons who know the Plaintiff would conclude that the words refer to him.
Were the defamatory words complained of were published to a person other than the Plaintiff (Third Party)?
In order to constitute publication, the matter must be published to at least one person other than the plaintiff.
After a Plaintiff successfully discharged his burden in proving that the words complained of are defamatory words referring to the Plaintiff published to a third party, then the person who the Plaintiff brought an action against, known as the Defendant would need to put forward his defence. To learn more about defending a defamation action, click here.
Damages for Defamation
If the Defendant failed to defends his defamation, the Court may award damages to the Plaintiff. To learn more about damages for defamation, click here.