Defamation allows a plaintiff to recover for injury to reputation as the result of the defendant’s communication to others of a false message about the plaintiff. Slander is a spoken defamation while libel is a written defamation or one accomplished by actions or conduct.
In certain instances, the messages themselves will be presumed to be made with “malice” and there is no further proof required, other than testimony about damages. For instance, if the defendant charges the plaintiff with one of five types of acts or characteristics: (1) commission of a crime of moral turpitude (a fancy way to say a bad, unethical crime); (2) contraction of a loathsome disease (saying someone has a sexually transmitted disease, for instance); (3) adultery; (4) unchastity; or (5) unfitness in one’s business or profession.
If not one of those categories, generally the plaintiff must prove that the defendant intended to harm the plaintiff by making the statement, which it was made with malice. Also, truth is a defense to any defamation claim.
Recoverable damages include: general damages include such things as injury to reputation, mental suffering, hurt feelings, and other similar types of injuries which are “incapable of definite money valuation.” On the other hand, special damages are tangible losses or injury to the plaintiff’s property, business, occupation or profession, capable of being assessed monetarily, which result from injury to the plaintiff’s reputation.
Defamation cases have, historically, resulted in some very large verdicts in South Carolina in comparison to other cases. We have handled many defamation cases at Hughey Law Firm, and if you believe you have such a claim, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss it with you.