The tort of libel is a subset of defamation, which also includes slander. The key difference between slander and libel is that slander involves a transitory medium such as speech; it is short-lived and not recorded.
Libel, however, involves something more permanent such as the written word or recorded statements. Both forms of defamation involve derogatory remarks intended to disparage another person. Typically, it must be proven that harm was suffered as a result of these remarks, be it emotional, physical, or material. There are, however, numerous defenses to libel.
- Truth. In most cases, truth is an “absolute defense” against libel. That is, if a statement is true, it by definition cannot be considered libelous.
- Absolute Privilege. In certain instances, such as a witness giving testimony in a criminal case, derogatory remarks cannot be considered libel, regardless of whether or not they were intended to be malicious (although if the remarks are untrue, it could be considered perjury).
- Opinion. If a remark is purely an opinion and therefore not falsifiable, it may be considered as a defense against libel in some jurisdictions.
- Consent. If the plaintiff has agreed to allow the derogatory statement to be made, libel cannot be charged.
- Innocent Dissemination. If the person making the libelous statement did not know that a statement was derogatory, or had no knowledge that the statement existed, he or she may not be charged with libel. However, if this oversight was due to a lack of reasonable care, it could give rise to a negligence lawsuit.
If someone has committed libel against you, contact the New York City personal injury lawyer, Orlow, Orlow & Orlow, P.C.