What you need to know about Utah Defamation / libel and slander claims.
Defamation of Character in Utah is a civil action used to enforce damages related to lowering one's reputation in the community. So what is considered libel / slander in Utah? The law of defamation revolves around the first amendment and the protection of the first amendment in the United States Constitution as well as the Utah Constitution.
There are two terms related to Defamation under Utah defamation law. Libel and slander. What is the meaning of libel and definition of liable and slander? Utah libel law is the written defamation of character lowering one’s reputation in the community. Utah slander law are words that were spoken that lowered one’s reputation in the community.
There is a one year statute of limitations of when the injured person knew or should have known about the defamatory statement. Given the short timing for a defamation claim, it is important to reach out to our Utah law firm and defamation attorney for a consultation on your claims as soon as possible.
Elements of Defamation of character / Libel / Slander in Utah
The statement must be about you.
There are several defamation elements you must prove in Utah if you sue someone and file a legal action in court for Defamation to prevail.
First, you must prove that the statement was about you. This means that one or more recipients of the statements, besides yourself, must actually understand the statement to be referring to you.
The statement must be published.
The statement must also be “published.” Published means the statements were communicated to someone other than you. If someone told you something that was false about you one-on-one that would not be sufficient to prove the publication part of a defamation claim. The publication though can be oral, written or non-verbal. Written publication includes statements that are printed physically, electronically or digitally which includes, newspapers, books, internet, letters, memorandums, ect.
The statement must be false.
You must also prove that the statement was false. If the statement is true then you cannot recover. One of the main defenses to a defamation claim is that the statement is true. In order for the statement to be false, the statement but either be directly untrue or that it implies a fact that is untrue. The statement must also be materially false, meaning that it must be false is a way that matters and not just minor or irrelevant inaccuracies. In order to prove the statement is true, it only needs to be substantially true, meaning that the “gist of the statement is true.
Also, if the statement is just an opinion or belief rather that a statement of fact, it is also protected by the Utah Constitution and cannot support a defamation claim. A statement of opinion can be defamatory if it implies facts that can be proven to be false.
The statement must be defamatory.
The statement also must be defamatory, meaning that the statement calls into question a person’s honesty. Some examples of defamatory statements are, if someone is called a liar or was accused of doing something that was dishonest, or their integrity, virtue or reputation that exposes that person to public hatred, contempt or ridicule. A publication that is unpleasant, embarrassing or uncomplimentary might not necessarily be a defamatory statement.
Privilege defense and truth defense.
The main defenses are that the statements are / were true and or that the statements were privileged. Under privilege, there are several types of privilege.
There is conditional privilege which can include the public interest privilege, meaning that it involves an issue that the public at-large has interest in and affects the public at large, as well as the police report interest, and family relationships interests, the fair report privilege and the neutral report interest. Whether or not a privilege applies is based on the context and basis and circumstances surrounding the publication. There are also privileges related to internal investigations and complaints within a business or government or to certain executives or government officials.
In a Utah employment law setting, a business may have some kind of immunity if it relates to an internal investigation depending on the context of the statement as well as the context of the person that made the statement or publication. There also may be some other related defenses and would be good to contact our Utah Employment law firm on specifics of your case to know if a business context statement was defamatory.
You can sue the person who said the statement specifically at work as well as try and sue the company as well. Some cases around the United States where a person has prevailed for a workplace defamation suit includes a case where a supervisor branded an employee as a thief. A teacher also prevailed with the false claim that he was fabricating false students records that he claimed led to the loss of a promotion and ultimately his position.
However, suing your business for defamation can be trickier than just suing the individual and it would depend on the circumstances of the situation, the role the person held and or whether or not the company directed the person to make the statement. The only advantage to suing the company itself if they may have more of the economic means to make you whole with the damages you incurred.
If the defamatory statement was made by an official announcement within the company the company could be held liable for it.
Suing a social media company such as facebook, twitter or google such as for a google review or a social media post from one of its users for libel and slander is tricky as well. Typically, those companies write terms and conditions that do not hold them liable for statements made by one of their users and would require an experienced defamation attorney such as our law firm to further review the circumstances to see if those companies could be held liable for it.
The individual from the account could be held liable for the statement though but one issue though is always locating where that person resides to properly have them served and respond to a Utah defamation lawsuit and if that person has the means to properly compensate you for the damages you incurred. One thing that is important to think about, is if you win a suit for defamation, will the person that injured you actually pay and be able to pay any judgment that may be brought against them in a Utah court.
If there is a privilege that is conditional, that typically means that you have to prove a higher amount of fault toward that individual. If you are a private individual, you have to prove that not only was the statement published, but that the statement was made in malice, meaning that the person that published the statement knew that the statements were false or had serious doubts on whether or not the statements were true.
If there is no applicable privilege, and you are a private individual, then the only thing that needs to be proven typically is that the statement was published which is known as strict liability, no matter whether it was done intentionally or not.
Burden of proof for public / private individuals.
If you are not a private individual, meaning that you are a known government official, or if you are a known celebrity or a private individual that has some kind of notoriety in the community, or if the issue published is a matter of public concern, even if you are a private individual, then you may have to prove something higher than just publication which would either be negligence or malice. This hierarchy of fault is based on the United State’s interpretation of defamation law and how it intertwined within the first amendment.
You must prove you were damaged by the defamatory statements.
Also, in order to prevail, you must also prove that you were damaged. There are two terms, Utah slander and libel per se, which means that the certain statements don’t require an actual proof of damages and that the law presumes that some types of damages are inherently damaging, where a person is entitled to at least one dollar in damages.
Libel / Slander per se.