We understand that defamatory statements can be extremely destructive both emotionally and financially. Our defamation lawyers are here to help stop the defaming claims and restore your professional reputation.
Read our client reviews and then call us to speak with an Adelaide defamation lawyer with specialist experience on a no obligation basis.
Experienced defamation lawyers Adelaide
Our experience is that most defamation cases occur in circumstances where the defamer is actively trying to cause damage to our client’s reputation. The defamatory statements can take various forms but most often include online publications. For example, many defamatory statements often occur on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Google..
Whilst one strategy is to “turn the other cheek” and ignore the publication of defamatory statements, that choice is often not available where the defamation can adversely affect reputation and potentially damage one’s employment or business prospects. In those situations, it may be necessary to take rapid and decisive action with the help of a defamation lawyer. This may involve a letter of demand or a concerns notice and if necessary, legal proceedings seeking injunctive orders and, ultimately, damages and costs.
Peter Jakobsen has published an article entitled "Defamation Damages" which you can read for more information. Find out more
Apology for defamatory statement
Ultimately most clients subjected to defamatory behaviour simply want a public apology and an undertaking that the defamation will cease. One of our defamation lawyers, Peter Jakobsen has written an article about how a defamation apology can impact your case.
In some situations however, the effect of the defamation is so devastating to one’s reputation and business interests that an apology alone is insufficient to restore the person to their former position. In those cases, where reputational damage is extreme, it will also be necessary to pursue financial compensation in the form of defamation damages. Please note that as with all litigation matters, defamation time limits apply when suing for defamation – talk to one of our litigation lawyers to find out what these are.
What is defamation?
Defamation is a legal cause of action designed to protect personal reputation. The action for defamation arises when something is written, said or otherwise represented about someone, to another or others, which tends to lower the reputation of that someone in the eyes of the community.
What is slander?
Slander is a form of defamation in a non-permanent form, such as spoken words. In bygone days, a person suing for slander had to prove special damage flowing from the slander. This is because a defamatory comment made in casual conversation was seen by the common law as less damaging than a newspaper article or television programme.
What is libel?
Libel is a form of defamation in a permanent form, such as writing in a newspaper or website, a cartoon or drawing. Various Australian States have passed defamation legislation that abolishes the old common law distinction between libel and slander. In South Australia, the Defamation Act (SA) 2005 applies, and in section 7 of the Act the distinction between slander and libel was abolished, which means that it’s no longer necessary for a victim to prove special damage.
What is malicious falsehood?
A related (but different) tort to that of defamation is false and injurious or malicious falsehood. Defamation injures personal reputation. Injurious falsehood is a lie about someone’s goods, business, or assets. See our article: “Defamation or Injurious Falsehood – What’s the Difference?”
How do I sue for defamation of character?
The victim of character defamation must issue a written “Concerns Notice”, which informs the publisher of the defamatory imputations that the victim considers are or may be carried about the victim. Within 28 days, the publisher can offer to make amends. If this does not resolve the matter, the victim must sue in court within 1 year of the defamation (a limited extension of time may sometimes be obtained).
If you are out of time to commence an action for defamation or there is some other technical reason which bars such an action, it may be possible to proceed with an action for malicious falsehood.
Serious harm requirement
A recent change to the Defamation Act is that whilst damage has been (for centuries) presumed if a publication was found to be defamatory, now a person cannot claim for defamation unless they prove that the defamatory publication caused or is likely to cause, serious harm to the reputation of the defamed person. Naturally, ‘serious harm’ is not defined.
The Concerns Notice, to be sent before defamation proceedings are taken, now also has to outline what serious harm is alleged. A Court may hold a serious harm hearing well ahead of trial to determine if the case can go ahead.
What defences are available to a charge of defamation?
Division 2 of the Defamation Act, 2005 (SA) sets out a number of defences to a charge of defamation. These defences are in addition to those prescribed by the common defamation law (section 22(1) of the Act. In particular, section 22(2) states that if the publication was actuated by malice, the general law applies in proceedings in which the defence is raised to determine whether a particular publication of matter was actuated by malice.
The defences set out in Division 2 of the Act are as follows:
- Justification (section 23);
- Contextual truth (section 24);
- Absolute privilege (section 25);
- Publication of public documents (section 26);
- Fair report of proceedings of public concern (section 27);
- Qualified privilege for provision of certain information (section 28);
- Public interest defence;
- Scientific or academic peer review;
- Honest opinion (section 29); and
- Innocent dissemination (section 30).
What award would I receive if a Court finds defamation?
If the defamation is proved and none of the defences apply, the usual remedy is an award of damages. Damages are to compensate for hurt feelings, loss of reputation and vindication. There has to be a rational link between the defamation and the harm to the victim.
The maximum amount allowed for non-economic loss is $250,000. Damages are usually reduced if the publisher has apologised and issued a retraction.
Read our client reviews now to see why our Adelaide defamation lawyers are the best choice for your defamation matter. Call now and talk to Peter Jakobsen for experienced legal advice on a no obligation basis.