Defamation is defined under Rhode Island law as a written or oral statement (untrue and malicious) that harms an individual or business by negatively affecting their reputation and good name. Libel is the term for written words, such as those found in newspapers, blogs or other online postings. Slander involves oral statements that defame a person’s character or reputation. State law protects both these allegations, but it is essential to enlist the services of an attorney experienced in all facets of personal injury, including defamation, to ensure the best outcome from your case.
In the Internet age, defamation has taken on a whole new spin. Users and consumers utilize the power of online profiles and highly visited websites to post their feelings and opinions. While this is not typically a problem, it does create the opportunity for a new realm of defamation issues. Instances of users making false and damaging claims about businesses or individuals seem to go by unchecked. If you are on the wrong side of one of those claims, it may appear as though you have no legal recourse. Fortunately, that isn’t the case.
If you are a business owner, and especially if the business name includes your personal name, being branded as anything other than honest and ethical in the court of public opinion is damaging. However, the law must skirt a fine line between freedom of speech and causing harm to a person or business’s reputation. The primary criteria used in these cases is often whether the statements are true or false. However, that is not the only factor that the victim of defamation needs to argue to win their lawsuit. Other aspects of a successful defamation case include:
In some cases, the victim of the defamation may be able to show the action was severe enough to degrade him or his business and inspire public hate and contempt. Libel and slander are serious charges that can profoundly impact an individual’s ability to gain employment or for a company to remain in business.
Rhode Island, like other states, makes a distinction between private and public figures in defamation lawsuits. People that live their lives in the public eye tend to have less protection under the law than private individuals.
Less protection means that public figures have the additional burden to prove the defendants acted with actual malice, while private figures only have to show the individual responsible for the defamation showed a reckless disregard for the truth or negligence in making their statements. Actual malice is a term that refers to both knowingly making an untrue statement or recklessly disregarded the truth when voicing or writing their statement. Public individuals like celebrities must also show the declaration was made with malice or an intent to harm the individual with what was said or written.
Some statements are considered by the law to be so harmful to the subject; the law will assume damage was the result. Defamation per se usually involves declarations regarding a person’s integrity, inappropriate conduct or lack of skill in an area of claimed expertise. The statements typically cause significant harm to a person’s professional or personal reputation, impacting their ability to perform daily tasks and reducing their quality of life overall. In these cases, the victim of the defamation does not need to prove damages, since they are assumed to be present by the court.
Libel and slander can both be complex issues that walk a narrow line between free speech and damage to one’s reputation. It takes an experienced personal injury attorney in many cases to sort through the facts of the case to present the points that are most valuable in helping the victim win a lawsuit. This is precisely why a seasoned law firm like Archambault Law is so valuable in protecting your rights throughout the legal process, ensuring you receive the compensation you are entitled to as well as the ability to restore your reputation and your good name.
If your reputation or the reputation of your business has been harmed due to written or verbal statements, Attorney Archambault and his team can help. Contact our firm today at 401-231-9700 to receive your free case review and take the first step in turning your defamation case around in your favor.