Defamation claims have recently dominated the headlines in Australia with actress and comedian Rebel Wilson being awarded more than $4.5 million dollars in damages following the publication of defamatory magazine articles.
Although defamation claims are readily associated with actions against the media by the rich and famous in reality most defamation claims are commenced in response to publications with a more limited audience. For example, the two mothers at a top Sydney school suing each other for defamation after each posted comments about the other on an instant messaging app.
But what constitutes defamation? And how do you sue someone for making untrue comments about you which negatively affects your reputation?
Defamation occurs when a person intentionally states or spreads information about another person that damages their reputation or can make others think less of them. The information must have been published (including being written or spoken) to at least one other person. While defamation cases involving the internet and social media are relatively new, the same principles apply.
There are a number of defences to a defamation claim, including that the statement was true, or that it was an expression of an honest opinion.
If you want to make a claim for defamation you will need to act quickly as proceedings must be commenced within 12 months of the date of publication of the defamatory material. If you have been defamed you should seek legal advice without delay.