What Does "defamation of Character" Mean?


Quick Answer

Defamation of character is a legal term that comes into play when one person makes a false statement about another person. For a statement to rise to the level of defamation of character, it must be false and cause harm, and it must have been heard or seen by a third party. If one of these criteria is absent, the statement does not meet the legal standard for defamation of character.

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Full Answer

The primary criterion to establish defamation of character is that the statement made is false. If the statement is true, it is not defamatory, even if it is maliciously published.

The criterion regarding harm to the one defamed is divided into separate categories when seeking remedies and preparing a claim. Harm can be caused to the defamed person's reputation, and mental and financial harm are also considered. Assessment of harm is often subjective and is therefore difficult. Some exceptions in the law occur when the defamation is presumed to have caused harm, in which case no further proof is necessary. In other cases, the harm must be proven by financial records, medical records or similar documentation.

In all cases of defamation of character, the offended party must seek appropriate legal counsel before moving forward with appropriate legal remedies.

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