Protecting your business reputation is key to overall success. When something untrue has been deliberately published about you, or your firm, which has adversely affected your business through financial loss or damage to reputation, then you may be able to bring an action to claim damages through defamation solicitors. If a defamation claim is proved, damages could be awarded; the amount and type of which depends upon the defamatory statement. The wider tort is split into two distinct elements of libel and slander.

Legal expertise in defamation claims

Oratto is an online platform which connects expert lawyers with consumers of legal services. Member defamation solicitors will be able to assess your circumstances and advise you accordingly right from the very beginning. An action for defamation can be expensive to bring and incur substantial costs if it fails. Oratto member lawyers will be able to offer the expertise that you need to find the best solution for you whether it is a personal defamation claim or business related.

If you prefer, you can send us your information and we can use the Oratto Match facility to find the right defamation lawyer for you, based on your individual circumstances.

Libel or slander?

Loosely speaking, libel refers to the written word and slander to the spoken word. To find a statement defamatory, there are certain criteria which must be met. The statement or inference must fit into one of the following categories. It must:

  • be likely to lower the person in the estimation of 'right-minded' people
  • expose the person to hatred, ridicule or contempt
  • cause the person to be shunned or avoided
  • disparage the person in their trade, profession, office or business

It must also be proven that the statement caused perceptible damage to the victim. It's not enough for it to be injurious or untrue, it must have resulted in loss of some kind, either financial or through damage to reputation.

The most obvious example of defamation is when a well-known personality sues an entity because they believe that a less than flattering untruth about them has been published in the public domain. However, defamation can exist in a much more low-key way as well, including, for example, in emails from a business rival containing defamatory statements. This can be held to be libelous, as can information made available via social media which potentially brings into question the honesty or integrity of the object of the statement.

I think a defamatory statement about me has been made, what can I do?

Before a remedy can be applied for, it must be proven that defamation has taken place. It's necessary to establish:

  • that the statement is defamatory
  • that the statement was published to a third person
  • whether or not a valid defence exists (new statutory defences were brought in by the Defamation Act 2013 to replace the old common law ones)

Remedies for defamation include applying for damages by way of compensation or an injunction (sometimes known as a ‘gagging order') to prevent the information being repeated. Awarding an injunction is taken very seriously because of its implications upon freedom of speech. Damages can be split into:

  • special (for financial loss)
  • general (for non-financial losses)
  • exemplary (these are damages used in a punitive way)

Your chosen defamation lawyer will be able to explain which remedies are available to you, as certain types of damages depend upon the nature and extent of the defamation.

Defamation Act, 2013

This piece of legislation provided a reform of certain elements of defamation law. It replaced the old common law defences of 'fair comment' and 'justified comment' with the statutory defences of:

  • truth
  • honest opinion

There is also the defence of 'privileged comment', for example, statements made during judicial or Parliamentary proceedings. Other key elements of the Act include:

  • claimants must clearly demonstrate they have suffered serious harm
  • a new defence of "responsible publication on matters of public interest
  • the presumption of a trial by jury has been removed
  • more protection to website operators hosting content which is user-generated

Does it matter that the statement was published via the internet outside England?

A defamatory statement is held to have been published at the place where it is read, heard or seen - and not where the material was first placed on the internet. Therefore, in internet cases, provided that a small number of people have access to the material which is viewable on the internet in England, the English courts will have the necessary jurisdiction to hear the claim against a foreign defendant. Oratto member lawyers for reputation management will have a thorough knowledge of this area of law.

Is there a time limit for bringing an action for defamation?

In general, the victim has one year to sue for defamation from the date on which the alleged defamatory statement is published. However, in exceptional circumstances this limit can be lengthened.

For more information, or to discuss your situation, contact Oratto today for specialised defamation law advice.