law & ethics
Comm 4313


Defamation terminology

Absolute Privilege: Protection from civil/defamatory liability extended to participants in court and legislative sessions.

Actual malice: Publication of defamatory statements with reckless disregard for the truth.

Damages: Compensation awarded to the plaintiff in a civil suit. This includes: Actual damages for humiliation, shame and injured reputation; Punitive damages; Apology and retraction. 

Defamation: Synonym for both libel and slander. The false publication or oral attack on a person's character, name or reputation leading to hatred, shame, disgrace, contempt and ridicule.

Defendant: One who responds to civil suit/complaint filed by a plaintiff. 

Libel: Published false and malicious information that defame a person.

Plaintiff: One who files a complaint in court.

Private figure/citizen: A plaintiff in a defamation suit who can prove that they lack widely recognizable public status in society. Private figures only have to prove negligence in a defamation suit. 

Public figure: A plaintiff in a defamation suit who has attained recognizable status in society, mostly voluntarily. Public figures have to prove actual malice. 

Qualified privilege: Limited exemption from defamatory torts extended to those inferring from statements made under the protection of absolute privilege. For example, if a newspaper publishes defamatory information said in a court session, it may have to prove that the information contains no actual malice.

Slander: Oral communication of false statements injurious to a person's reputation.

Summary judgment: Occurs when a lower court judge dismisses a civil suit on the basis of its lack of merit.

Tort: A defamatory act from which a civil suit can result.