Defending Your Reputation & Your Livelihood
Defamation is a very serious offense that damages your reputation. This damage can cause both economic harm and serious emotional distress, especially if your livelihood depends on your reputation and good character. Defamation can ruin the integrity and trustworthiness you’ve spent years building, which can affect how those around you view you. This can threaten not only your livelihood but your happiness as well.
Those who have the most potential to be harmed by defamation include public figures, such as celebrities, professional athletes, politicians, high-ranking public employees, and community and business leaders, but they are by no means the only people who can be hurt by defamation. If you’re not one of these highly-visible public figures, proving that you’ve been defamed is actually easier because the standards are not quite so high for private individuals.
Defamation of Character Law in Colorado
When false statements are negligently made about a private individual, those statements can tarnish the individual’s reputation, resulting in both economic and emotional damage. This is called defamation, and there are two main categories:
- Slander, which is an oral statement;
- Libel, which is a written statement.
One key element of this type of claim is that the defamatory statement must be made to someone other than the person who is the subject of the statement. For example, the statement could be published in a newspaper article or posted on Facebook; it could be spoken to an audience or made on television.
Each potentially damaging slanderous or libelous statement is considered a separate act of defamation.
If you’re a private citizen suing for defamation in a private matter, you must prove that the person making the defamatory statement was negligent with regard to the truth or falsity of the statement. You don’t have to prove that the person knew for a fact that the statement was false.
Whereas, if you’re a public figure bringing a defamation lawsuit, you have to prove that the person making the defamatory statement knew for a fact that the statement was false or that the statement was made with reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of the statement.
There are certain situations where you may not be able to charge a person with defamation, including:
- If a public employee unintentionally defames a private person, they have qualified immunity from defamation charges. Example: if a police officer, in a case of mistaken identity, claims that an individual committed a crime when the person did not commit a crime, the police officer can’t be charged with defamation.
- People who make statements during judicial proceedings are qualified for absolute immunity from any claims of defamation.
Defamation vs. Defamation Per Se
With a defamation claim, the context of the alleged defamatory statements needs to be examined and the occurrence of defamation needs to be proven first. Then, monetary damages resulting from harm to your reputation need to be proven as well.
Defamation per se is a different claim than defamation. If the false statement is so egregious that it severely compromises an individual’s reputation, damages are assumed and do not have to be proven. This is defamation per se.
Colorado recognizes four categories of per se defamatory statements:
- Criminal accusations;
- Accusations of professional misconduct or misconduct during time in public office;
- Accusations of a communicable disease;
- Accusations of sexual misconduct, including adultery.
Statute of Limitations and Defenses
The statute of limitations on a defamation claim is one year from the date that the defamatory statement was published.
If the person who made the statement can prove the truth of the statement, then that’s a complete defense against your claim.
Types of Possible Damages in a Defamation Claim
Any monetary damages in a defamation claim must be connected to the material harm that has been suffered by the victim. Loss of potential employment, business opportunity, lost wages, or lost profits are all recoverable claims in a defamation case.
Psychological damage can also affect the victim of defamation. In this case, medical costs related to treatment, such as psychiatric care and counseling, will be included in the request for damages.
You could also request exemplary (also known as “punitive”) damages in the state of Colorado. Exemplary damages are limited – they can’t exceed the amount of compensatory damages awarded. These types of damages are intended to discourage defamatory behavior in the future.
Your Legal Options
If you’ve been defamed by either libel or slander, and substantial financial and emotional harm has been done to you, you need an attorney who is well-versed in Colorado’s defamation laws. A defamation attorney can do things such as write a cease-and-desist letter that explains the legal consequences of defamatory actions, and demand that the person defaming you stop immediately.
An attorney may also seek to have the defamatory statement retracted. Your defamation attorney will evaluate your economic and emotional damages to see whether they warrant filing a lawsuit. They will discuss whether certain other claims apply to your case, such as:
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress;
- Interference with contract or business expectancy;
- Negligence per se;
If any of these claims apply to your case, they may be combined with your defamation per se or defamation claim.
The attorneys at Marathon Law have the experience you need. We’ll discuss your legal options, and let you know if we believe you have a strong case. Call us for a consultation today. You can reach us by phone at (303) 704-1222 or request a consultation here.