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Reputations are invaluable assets, and many people and companies reap the benefits associated with maintaining good standing in their communities. A good reputation can take years to build but may be ruined with a single negative statement. While fair criticism is typically not actionable, if a harmful comment about a person or business is false, it may constitute grounds for a defamation claim. If you sustained losses due to a false assertion, you could be owed damages and should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. The experienced Atlanta defamation attorneys of Poole Huffman are mindful of the devastating impact disparaging falsehoods can have on a person or company’s reputation, and if you hire us, we will advocate tirelessly on your behalf. We frequently represent parties in defamation lawsuits in Atlanta, Tucker, and Decatur.

Georgia’s Definition of Defamation

Defamation is a broad term referring to false statements that injure the reputation of a person or company. Georgia law differentiates between written defamation, or libel, and spoken falsehoods, which are referred to as slander. Specifically, libel is statutorily defined as malicious and false defamation of a party, expressed in writing, print, signs, or pictures, that tends to injure the party’s reputation and expose it to contempt, ridicule, and public hatred. In order for a statement to be deemed malicious, it has to be deliberately calculated to cause harm. Libel must be published in order for the injured party to recover damages, which means it must be communicated to a third party. Learn more about the differences between libel and slander by talking to a defamation attorney in Atlanta.

A claim for slander will arise when a person orally imputes a crime to another or charges a person with a debasing act that could exclude the person from society or having a contagious disease. It is also considered slander to make oral statements against a party in reference to the party’s office, profession, or trade, in an attempt to injure the party. Disparaging comments that cause special damages may also be considered slander.

Proving Defamation Under Georgia Law

A plaintiff alleging defamation must first prove the defendant made a defamatory and untrue statement concerning the party. The plaintiff has to prove the statement is false, as the truth of a statement is a defense to defamation. Additionally, an opinion or subjective assessment generally cannot form the basis of a defamation claim, as they cannot be proven to be untrue.

The plaintiff must then show an unprivileged communication of the statement between the defendant and a third party. There are nine types of communications deemed privileged under Georgia law, including statements made in good faith in the performance of a public or private duty, fair and honest reporting of the proceedings of courts and legislative bodies, and comments on the actions of public figures working in their public capacity. Discuss all of these types of communications with a defamation lawyer in Atlanta.

Next, the plaintiff must establish the fault of the defendant who made the statement. A plaintiff that is a private person will likely only need to show the defendant acted with negligence. If the plaintiff is a public figure, though, demonstrating fault typically requires clear and convincing proof that the defendant acted with actual malice. Finally, the plaintiff must demonstrate harm or damages caused by the statement, like loss of income, profits, or employment, unless the communication at issue constitutes defamation per se, in which case damages will be inferred. Examples of defamation per se include statements that a person committed a crime or is guilty of dishonestly or immorality.

It is critical for anyone harmed by false statements to act promptly, as generally, defamation claims must be pursued within one year from the date the comment at issue was first published or communicated.

Meet with an Assertive Attorney in Atlanta

False statements about a person or business can have a lasting impact, including economic losses. Parties whose reputations have been damaged by the disbursement of untrue information should seek legal counsel regarding their rights. The Atlanta defamation lawyers of Poole Huffman are adept at helping people and businesses protect their interests, and if you suffered harm due to defamation, we can aid you in the pursuit of damages. We regularly represent parties in lawsuits in Atlanta, Decatur, and in Tucker, where our office is located. We also handle cases in cities throughout Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, and Gwinnett Counties. You can contact us at 404-373-4008 or through our form online to schedule a conference.

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