There has been a lot of confusion regarding defamation and injurious falsehood. These are two different claims that are brought in court for further inspection. Let’s take a quick look at the two and figure out vital contrasting factors. Defamation in its basic form is any written/verbal statement made to cause possible harm to a person’s reputation. Spoken defamation is called slander and written defamation is known as libel. The Act of defamation provides legal protection to a person against defamatory statements. Although, there can be quite a few interpretations defining defamation. Three primary factors decide whether a comment is defamatory or not.
The Statement must be Defamatory
For a defamation case to be in motion, the existence of a lie is essential. Comments, in general, can bring some emotional disorder. But not all statements that you disagree with can be considered defamation. A statement has to be a serious lie to be scrutinized further.
The Statement must Cause Actual Harm
A statement has to cause serious harm to get validated as a defamation case. For instance, your colleague Martha is a nasty woman who likes to badmouth you behind your back. She might go around spreading rumors like, “She’s a bad influence. She uses swear words a lot.” It won’t have that big an impact on you if her words go unheeded in all likely situations. But, if Martha continues and starts telling everyone that you sell drugs to teenagers, you are likely to get fired. In this scenario, there is strong evidence of actual harm caused by a misleading statement. Thus, the latter qualifies as defamation.
There must be Witnesses or Evidence Present
Collecting evidence or witnesses to testify defamation is not a problem when it is written. Slander or verbal defamation, on the other hand, is a struggle. Possible audio/video records proving the slander is the only means to have appropriate evidence for filing a defamation case. In any case, having solid proof is essential to filing a court case.
While defamation can be projected on individuals, companies with slander/libel claims cannot file cases under defamation. This is where injurious falsehood comes into action. Organizations that are commercial and have more than ten employees can’t file defamation claims. If they have encountered financial damage as a result of defamation, they can claim injurious falsehood. Just like defamation, filing a case of injurious falsehood has specific eligible grounds. These elements ensure if the claim is valid.
- The statement made must be false – For a case of injurious falsehood to be held valid, there must be falsity in the statement. A lawsuit can be filed only after proper inspection. If the statement is proved untrue, then legal action can be taken.
- The statement has to be published to a third party – The statement has to be communicated to a third party. It is not enough to have the statement been passed on to the claimant by the defendant. There has to be at least one third-party witness to have the case admissible in court.
- There has to be evidence of malice on the defendant’s part – There has to be proof of malicious intent on the defendant’s part. If the defendant was aware of the potential financial damage the claimant would incur, then the case is considered valid.
- There must be evidence of actual damage – The claimant has to retain losses as a result of injurious falsehood. Loss can be in the form of potential or consequential damage. The damage can be a financial drain or business ruin. In this case, the defendant can be compelled with a court order to stop or remove the published statement.
Fundamental Differences between the Two: Defamation v/s Injurious Falsehood
In the case of defamation, a claimant has to be an individual or a not-for-profit company with ten employees or fewer. In case of injurious falsehood, a claimant has to be a commercial business with employees more than ten. Suppose you are a businesswoman who has a spiteful neighbour. If she decides to spread rumours about your personal life that causes you reputational harm, it classifies as defamation. If she publishes an article stating how your business is a big reserve of malpractices, it classifies as injurious falsehood. The latter is a situation that might lead to a financial drain if clients start refusing your services. Thus, it depends on the claimant type to understand whether a statement is a defamation or injurious falsehood.
A defamation case is valid if the claimant suffers reputational damage. If a claimant’s business suffers financial loss, then it classifies as injurious falsehood. A statement can be both defamatory and a case of injurious falsehood as well. For instance, Adam has a booming café business in Perth. Mark is another café owner with a failing business. Mark decides to falsely quote Adam as an unhygienic man who is involved in food adulteration practices. If it is published, Adam faces severe financial damage as well as reputational harm. Here, a case of injurious falsehood is more viable as the financial drain is way more alarming. So he’ll go to an injurious falsehood attorney rather than choosing from top defamation lawyers.
In case of an injurious falsehood claim, the claimant must prove the statement as false. This usually may get complex. In the case of defamation, however, the defendant has to prove the statement as true. This is easy on the claimant as they don’t have to confirm the statement as false.
An existence of malicious intent on the defender’s part is necessary for an injurious falsehood claim to be valid. A defamation claim doesn’t need any such grounds to be classified as credible. In situations of confusion, it is better to ask for legal advice. To not get entangled in lengthy court proceedings, one needs to plan accordingly. Hiring a defamation claim lawyer in cases of reputational damage is considered wise. Organizing all of the required evidence can get tricky without a lawyer. Besides, why risk it with limited knowledge and no experience? A lawyer is prepared and efficient. Their involvement will definitely make a huge impact and save you time and effort.