If your reputation has been damaged as a result of a false and defamatory statement or publication someone has made about you, you may be entitled to compensation and/or injunctive relief under the law of defamation.
A claim for defamation exists where a statement or publication is made to a third party that carries a defamatory imputation unless:
- there is an available Defence, or
- the person is a company with more than 10 employees or a publicly listed company other than a non-for profit organisation.
The law of defamation is based upon the communication of defamatory meanings (or imputations) and not simply upon the words spoken (or written).
There is no single test for determining whether a statement is defamatory. Examples of the formulations used to define a “defamatory imputation” include imputations which:
- are likely to lower a person’s reputation in the eyes of reasonable members of the community,
- injures a person’s reputation by exposing them to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or
- tends to make the person be shunned or avoided.
The basic Defences available to a claim for defamation are:
- truth (or justification),
- contextual truth,
- absolute or qualified privilege,
- fair comment about a matter of public interest, and
- a reasonable Offer to Make Amends.
A claim for defamation is only actionable if brought within a period of 12 months from when the defamatory statement or publication was made.
As Court action is best avoided, where possible, it is usually better to take prompt action to try to minimise or redress any early damage that a defamed person has suffered.