In law, defamation of character refers to a false statement, either written or spoken, against someone that harms him in some way. A defamation of character claim is considered to be extremely difficult to prove in a court of law. Many lawyers agree, however, that if you have truth on your side, it is possible. To prove a claim of this sort, you must be able to prove that a claim was made and it was false. You must then prove that this statement was shared with a third party and that it caused you some sort of harm.
Proving that a statement was made against you is the first step to proving a defamation of character claim. This statement could have either been spoken or written. If the malicious claim was spoken, then this is known as slander. If it was written down or published, however, it is then known as libel.
After you can prove that a statement has been made against you, the next step is to prove that this statement is actually false or not privileged information. Privileged information is often associated with statements made during a court case. If the statement turns out to be true, or even partly true, this can harm your chances of winning a defamation of character case. For example, if someone informs a third party that you are a drug addict, you must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this is untrue.
The next step in proving a defamation of character claim is proving that it was shared or published. It could have either been spoken to one person or a group of people, or it could have been written down or published for people to read. The statement made must also refer specifically to you.
The last and, possibly, the most difficult step in proving defamation of character is showing that the false statement made by the defendant has caused you some type of damage. Actually causing damage and having the potential to cause damage, however, are two different things. You must be able to prove that your reputation has already been tarnished. Generally the easiest types of damage to prove are problems with your occupation and business losses.
There are a number of defenses in a defamation of character case, with the truth being the best. If you find that you are the defendant in a defamation of character case, your best defense would be to prove that the statement that you made is true. Another defense is privileged information. No matter how false or slanderous, statements that were made during a court case are usually protected from defamation of character claims.
Opinions are also typically protected. For example, if you told a colleague "I think Bob Jones is a drug addict," this is more likely to be interpreted as an opinion. On the other hand, if you said "Bob Jones is a drug addict," there is more of a chance that you will be found in the wrong.