Defamation involves the making in oral or written way of a false statement that damages the reputation of an individual or company. Defamation communicated in a spoken manner is called ‘slander’. Defamation expressed in writing, such as in a newspaper or magazine, is called ‘libel’.
When a person or a business feels that their reputation has been harmed by such a false statement, Court action can be pursued. Whether damages can be recovered or not, depends to a large extent as to whether the innocent party is a public figure or not. It is easier to show to Court that a public person can suffer economic loss due to such a false statement than a person that is not a public figure. However, anyone can seek special damages if they can show loss in their trade or profession because of the damage to reputation caused by the false statement.
Before pursuing Court action, it is common to seek to settle such a matter out of Court. It could be that the defamer issues an apology to the person/company to whom he/she made the defamatory statements and retracts the remarks.
For a Court action to succeed, it must be proven to Court that the defamatory statement caused damage to the innocent party and that the statement was intentionally communicated to someone. Allowable defences include the allegation that the statement was truthful, privilege and fair comment which means the statement was simply the view of the person who made the statement alleged to be defamatory.
It must be noted that no action can be brought for defamation following one year from the date of cause of action.