While the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, certain statements that damage a person’s reputation may be actionable as defamation. Defamation includes both libel (written statements) and slander (spoken statements). In Virginia, in order to prove defamation you must establish the publication of a false statement that causes harm to your reputation. Mere opinions, as opposed to false statements of fact, do not present a basis for defamation. Truth is also an absolute defense to defamation.
Statements that indicate you were involved in criminal activity, are infected with a contagious disease, lack integrity or fitness in your profession or prejudice you in your profession are considered defamatory per se. These types of statements are considered so harmful to a person’s reputation that damages are presumed. In Virginia, you are required to plead the exact words of the defamatory statement. In libel cases, this is not a difficult hurdle to overcome. For example, where former clients or associates make false statements on online user review websites, such as Yelp or Google+, the statements are easily shown.
If you believe you have been the subject of defamatory remarks, contact a Virginia defamation lawyer today at 703-280-0037.