People are easily offended by the statements made by others. The advent of Facebook has aggravated this sensitivity as it encourages bullying and false statements which are highly offensive. But – are these statements actionable in a court of law? Simply put, should you hire a lawyer to pursue your claim against a third party for defamation in Texas? Here are a few pointers.
Is the Statement Defamatory?
Defamation in Texas includes written statements (Libel) and oral communications (Slander). To prove defamation, the client needs to establish these elements under Texas Defamation, Slander, and Libel Law:
1. The offender published a false statement.
What this means in that the statement was imparted to another person who can verify receipt of that communication or appeared in some tangible form in print or other media. In non-lawyer terms this means that the statement was made orally by Person A to Person B and that Person B would attest to the fact that the communication was heard. The second example relates to publication as being transmitted on Facebook, via email, or physically rendered. Critically, opinions are not defamatory as they raise First Amendment questions. The dividing line is not always easy, even for lawyers!
2. The statement defamed the Plaintiff.
The legal standard is that a person of ordinary intelligence would interpret the statement as impugning the reputation or virtue of another and subjecting them to contempt, ridicule, and public hatred.
3. Proof of fault.
The standard varies based on who is making the statement. If it is a public official, a higher standard of malice is required as the need to safeguard free speech under the First Amendment takes priority. However, for ordinary folks like you and me, a lesser standard of negligence typically applies.
CAN I GET DAMAGES?
Yes, but you need to consult with an attorney who can advise as to the specific monetary damages which could be recovered. It depends on the facts of each case. In some cases, the defamation is so severe that damages are easier to recover – for example, impugning the reputation of another by publicly accusing them of a crime or sexual offense.
WE ARE HERE TO HELP
If you are the victim of defamation, give us a call. We offer a free consultation and will look at any documents available to prove your case on a complimentary basis.