Defamation of character describes words and statements that impugn the reputation of another. Libel is the term used when defamation is put into writing, while slander refers to the spoken word. As a matter of law, it is not a crime to commit libel or slander, but it is still an offense over which a lawsuit can be filed in order to protect a reputation and be compensated for the harm that has been done. Some states, including Pennsylvania, also allow businesses to file suit for trade libel, which is also known as slander of goods, unfair competition or commercial disparagement. Lawsuits can also be filed to protect against invasion of privacy, which can include portraying a person in a false light, the unauthorized use of another’s likeness or name, and unreasonably publicizing one’s private life to the public.
Issues of defamation and invasion of privacy can be difficult to litigate, given the right to free speech. However, defamation goes beyond simple argument or opinion, and an experienced attorney from the firm of Bochetto & Lentz can quickly help you to determine whether or not you have been defamed, whether your privacy has been invaded, and whether you have an actionable claim.
In general, for defamation to have taken place the false and hurtful statements need to have been published and heard or read by parties other than the person making the statement. The statement must be untruthful – if somebody says something about you that is unpleasant but also true, the statement is not defamatory. The remarks must clearly be hurtful to your reputation and cause some kind of injury – even a social injury. The false statements must have been made negligently, recklessly or intentionally, depending upon the context and status of the plaintiff. Finally, the environment in which the statement is made must not be “privileged,” for example you cannot sue somebody for libel or slander for statements that they made about you while providing testimony in court.
There are some important distinctions between cases involving defamation, invasion of privacy, and commercial disparagement. Most notably, in cases of invasion of privacy the public nature of statements that have been made need to extend beyond a few people and become generally known. In cases of commercial disparagement, the false statements must be proven to have been made with the intention of causing financial loss, and the lawsuit is designed to compensate the business for those losses that they have suffered.
Contacting a defamation lawyer and pursuing a lawsuit for defamation of character or invasion of privacy is all about protecting your reputation and good name. In the state of Pennsylvania, if you believe that you have been defamed, your right to sue is limited to a period of one year, so it is important that you take action quickly. The Philadelphia attorneys at Bochetto & Lentz are knowledgeable and experienced in proving defamation and invasion of privacy, and are able to help you file suit for relief.
Contact us today. We have locations in South Jersey and Philadelphia.