Defenses to Defamation
There are several recognized defenses to a defamation claim. First, if the allegedly defamatory statement is true, it is an absolute defense. Second, a communication may be privileged under the law and specifically exempted from defamation actions.
• Example: In most circumstances, statements made by legislators, judges, attorneys, and those involved in lawsuits (in court or in session) are privileged.
• Discussion: Do you think defamation should extend to truthful statements in some situations? Should truthful communications that are presented in a way to create a false impression about someone be defamatory? Why or why not? How do you feel about certain forums being privileged or exempt from defamation actions? What are the arguments for and against such privilege?
• Practice Question: Dora learns from Elvis that Sandra has a venereal disease. While this is true, Dora and Elvis are incorrect about the specific disease. When Dora incorrectly tells another person that Dora has a specific venereal disease, has she committed a tort?