Defamation is the publication of false material about a person which attempts to discredit that person's character, reputation or creditworthiness, or reflects on a person's reputation so as to lower that person in the estimation of other members of society, or which would cause that person to be shunned or avoided. Defamation is either libel or slander. Libel is defamatory material in permanent form, for example in writing. Slander is defamatory material in non-permanent form, for example spoken word. The requirements for an action in defamation are that the person defamed (i.e. the Claimant) must prove that:
- The material about which he/she complains is defamatory;
- The material refers to him/her; and
- The material is published (i.e. communicated) to at least one other person.
A person who is accused of making a statement which is defamatory can use a number of different arguments in his/her defence such as, for example, the following:
- The statement was true, fair comment or on a matter of public interest;
- The facts on which the comment was based are true and the statement was not made maliciously;
- One or more of the essential elements to a defamatory claim (as summarised above) are not present;
- The person who made the statement did so because of some moral or legal duty and so the statement is covered by what is known as "qualified privilege"; and
- The reference to the person in the defamatory statement was unintentional and the person responsible for making that statement makes an offer of amends.
In any defamation claim there is also the possibility of suing for malicious falsehood. This is a claim based on an untrue statement but which does not damage any reputations. It does, however, have to cause a party harm. The essential requirements are:
- The words published are untrue;
- The actions were motivated by malice; and
- The party suffered actual damage.
Healys has the experience and expertise to act for both claimants and defendants in defamation actions. It is important in any such actions to act promptly; not least because the limitation period is 12 months from the date the defamatory statement was made. This contrasts with the limitation period in personal injury actions which is three years and in contractual/tortious disputes which is six years.
We offer the full range of funding options (other than government funding) available to include fixed fees, conditional fee arrangements, after the event insurance and third party funding. We also always provide cost estimates as soon as reasonably practicable and remain within those estimates or, where (for good reason) not possible, agree a revised estimate before the previous one is exceeded. This, together with our regular billing policy and transparency on costs, means you retain a degree of control and certainly over your legal spend.