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Elements of Defamation by Mind Map: Elements of Defamation
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Elements of Defamation

ELEMENTS OF DEFAMATION Defamation is a false attach, either verbally or in writing (or other method), that injures the Plaintiff’s reputation in the community. There are 5 elements of defamation, which are discussed in detail in the notes in this mindmap.

1. Defamatory Language

DEFAMATORY LANGUAGE The first element of defamation is that the words used actually defame the Plaintiff. Any statement that subjects the Plaintiff to public ridicule, hatred, or contempt is defamatory. Insults are not classified as defamatory, nor are statements that hurt the Plaintiff’s feelings. Only statements that injure the Plaintiff’s reputation in the community are defamatory. Pure opinion is not defamatory. If someone says, “I think Mary is dishonest,” the statement is an opinion. If someone says, “I happen to know that Mary is dishonest,” the statement may be considered to be defamation.

2. False Statements

FALSE STATEMENTS The statements made by the Defendant must not only cause the Plaintiff embarrassment or financial loss. The statement s must also be false. One of the main defenses to a defamation action is that the statement made is true.

3. Statement Refers to Plaintiff

STATEMENT REFERS TO PLAINTIFF The Plaintiff must prove that the statement is made in reference to him or her. Sometimes this is difficult to prove, especially if the statement does not include the Plaintiff’s name. It is not a requirement that the Defendant specifically name the Plaintiff, as long as it is clear to others that the Defendant is referring to the Plaintiff. A statement so vague that it may or may not have referred to the Plaintiff is not actionable as defamation.

4. Publication

PUBLICATION In all jurisdictions, publication or communication of the defamatory statement is an essential requirement. When a person publishes a defamatory statement, (s)he communicates to someone other than the Plaintiff.   If the defamation is slander, it must be heard and understood by someone other than the Plaintiff. If the defamation is libel, it must be read or seen and understood by someone other than the Plaintiff. If, for example, a writing is not intended to be published, and is accidentally read by a third person, no publication has occurred. It is not enough that the Plaintiff prove the possibility that someone might have heard or seen the statement. It must be established that the statement was communicated to someone other than the Plaintiff. It is also essential that the third person realize the significance of the statement. If the third person does not understand the statement, defamation does not exist.

5. Injury to Plaintiff's Reputation

INJURY TO PLAINTIFF’S REPUTATION The Plaintiff must also prove that his or her reputation was damaged by the Defendant’s statement. If someone already has a bad reputation, the defamatory statement may not have made the Plaintiff’s reputation any worse.

KEY- Click Circle

KEY Circles with lines in them indicate that there are notes about the topic. You will find a printer-friendly version in Doc Sharing by clicking the tab located at the top of your course pages.