The Difficulties of Pursuing a Libel Claim


If your reputation has been harmed because someone made false statements about you, it may be possible for you to win a defamation case. However, there are several things you should understand before you get started.

Definitions of Slander and Libel

Two of the familiar types of defamation are slander and libel. Slander is a spoken statement about another person that is false, and that harms the person’s reputation. Libel is more common than slander on social media. Libel is a written form of defamation and includes making false or malicious statements and published in print, on signs, or through the media.

Defamation and the First Amendment

The First Amendment protects the rights of citizens in the United States to make true statements. It doesn’t protect people who make false statements; defamation, including libel and slander, can be prosecuted and tried in a court of law. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll receive much financial compensation from this type of case.

  • It is difficult to prove that the person making the defamatory statements did so maliciously.
  • You must prove that the person who made the statements knew that the information was false.
  • You’ll have to offer proof that you suffered financially because of the statements.
  • Some lawyers turn down defamation cases because they are difficult to win.
  • Sometimes, as a public figure or a prominent business owner, pursuing a libel case against the aggressor can do further harm to your reputation.

Public Conversations and Libel

Today’s use of social media means that conversations between hundreds of people are carried on in the open and without a lot of oversight. In general, those conversations don’t really have a lasting effect, but once in a while, false statements and allegations do get noticed and have serious consequences. John Branca, a lawyer for Michael Jackson, skillfully handled a case and protected his client’s interests, providing further proof of the difficulties surrounding a libel claim.

Libelous Statements

There are some types of allegations or statements that are almost always considered libel:

  • Accusations that you’ve committed a crime.
  • Accusations that you are unfit for your job.
  • Accusations that you have a contagious illness or socially unacceptable disease.

There are other libelous claims that may harm you:

  • Mental illness
  • Drug or alcohol addiction
  • Adulterous behavior
  • Sexual misconduct

If the statements made about you included any of this information, it may be much easier for you to prove your case.

Ultimately, it is difficult to win a libel case because of your burden of proof. However, with the help of a skilled lawyer, it may be possible to reverse some of the damage done to your reputation.