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Denver Defamation Lawyer

Your reputation matters — after all, you’ve spent years building a name for yourself and making your way up to where you are today. At all costs, you should do all you can to protect your name. But reputation can be ruined in the blink of an eye. A simple defamatory statement made by another can damage the name that you’ve spent so long and worked so hard to build.

That doesn’t mean, however, that you can just accept the losses because of another’s defamatory statement against you. You may have the option to sue and seek damages for your financial losses caused by the defamatory statement, as well as emotional damages incurred. 

Types of Defamation

Defamation happens when a person makes a written or oral false or derogatory statement about you to another person. These situations can be a solid legal basis for a defamation case if the elements of the crime are present. 

There are two main types of defamation. The difference between the two is the means by which the defamatory statement has been made. However, in Colorado law, both are treated similarly. 

Slander

Slander occurs when a defamatory statement is made orally to one person against another. In order for slander to give rise to a cause of legal action, all of the following elements must be present: 

  • One person makes an untrue or derogatory statement.
  • The statement is about another person.
  • The statement is made to a third party.
  • The statement is published orally. 

Under Colorado law, for a statement to be published, it must have been communicated to and understood by some third party. 

Libel 

On the other hand, libel is when a defamatory statement is made in written form of communications, such as newspapers, TV or radio broadcasts, internet posts, email, cartoons, magazines, signs, etc. The elements of libel must be present to give rise to a cause of action. These are similar to the elements of slander, namely: 

  • One person makes an untrue or derogatory statement.
  • The statement is about another person.
  • The statement is made to a third party.
  • The statement is published in written form. 

Defamation Per Se vs. Defamation Per Quod

The law treats slander and libel in the same manner. However, defamation can be further categorized as either defamation per se or defamation per quod. These two differ in terms of the severity of the offense and the proof required to succeed in legal action. 

Defamation Per Se

A defamation per se is a grave false statement that Colorado considers harmful as a matter of law. These include false statements of the following nature:  

  • That a person committed a crime 
  • That a person is unchaste or impotent
  • That a person has a sexually transmitted disease
  • That a person is unfit to practice their profession

Because of the gravity of these defamatory statements, defamation per se cases do not require the victim to prove that he or she has suffered monetary harm — except if the victim is a public official. Public figures have a lower expectation of privacy, which means that they still need to prove actual damages to win a defamation case. 

Defamation Per Quod 

A defamation per quod covers all other types of defamatory statements that are not considered defamatory per se. In these types of defamation cases, the victim needs to prove actual or special damages. 

It’s advisable to speak to a defamation lawyer in Denver to determine which category your defamation case can fall into. Your attorney with civil law expertise can also advise you on the steps you need to take to be awarded damages. 

Barriers to a Defamation Lawsuit & Defamation Immunity

There are some instances when a defamation lawsuit is barred from being initiated or the defendant in a case is immune from the lawsuit. These instances include if the defendant has absolute or conditional privileges and immunities or the lack of actual malice if the injured party is a public figure.

Absolute Privileges

If a defendant has absolute privileges, they are immune from defamation lawsuits even if they had actual malice, i.e. the intention to harass the injured party, or if they were aware that the statement is false. 

Absolute privileges can exist in the following situations: 

  • Statements made in executive and judicial proceedings, as long as the statement is relevant to the subject of the proceedings
  • Statements made in legislative proceedings or committee sessions, which are privileged even if they are irrelevant to the subject of the proceedings
  • Statements made by a person to their spouse about a third person 

Conditional Privileges

A conditional privilege exists in cases where the defamatory statement was made in the performance of a legal or moral duty. In these instances, the defendant is also immune from a defamation lawsuit. However, a conditional privilege can be lost, which makes the defendant vulnerable to legal action. 

Actual Malice

Defamatory statements made against a public figure would need a higher standard of proof. If a defamatory statement involving a matter of public concern was made against a celebrity, a public official, etc., the plaintiff must prove actual malice. 

This means there must be evidence that the defendant knew that the statement was false or delivered the statement with reckless disregard of whether it is false. 

Types of Possible Damages in a Defamation Claim

A person injured by a defamatory statement and wins a defamation case can be awarded three different types of damages: 

  1. General damages – covers the defined damages a person sustains because of shame, ruined reputation, hurt feelings, and pain and suffering. 
  2. Special damages – damages to the injured party’s business, property, profession, or trade. 
  3. Punitive damages – payment made by the offender as punishment for their actions. However, this is not available in every defamation case. 

Learn Legal Options with A Denver Defamation Lawyer

A defamatory statement can tarnish your reputation and even result in monetary losses for you or your business. If your reputation has been tainted because of a defamatory statement made by another person, regardless of whether or not you are a public figure or private individual, contact our defamation lawyer in Denver today to find out if you are eligible to pursue legal actions and seek damages.

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Kristin
Weaver

Associate Attorney - Domestic Relations

Denver – Cherry Creek