Arkansas Defamation: Laws & Legal Overview

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Arkansas Slander and Libel Laws

Arkansas Defamation Definition

In order for a written or spoken statement to be deemed defamatory in Arkansas, a plaintiff must prove:

  1. How the statement caused harm or reputation loss to the plaintiff;
  2. That the material in question referenced the plaintiff;
  3. That the defendant is responsible for publishing or speaking the statement under review;
  4. How the statement caused harm; and
  5. What types of damages the statement caused.

As is the same across the United States, opinion is not defamatory under Arkansas slander and libel laws.

Arkansas Defamation Statute of Limitations & Standards’ Threshold

Context is sacrosanct in Arkansas defamation law. All statements are evaluated based on surrounding text and circumstances.

The Majority Doesn’t Rule In Arkansas Slander and Libel Law

In addition, Arkansas judges don’t consider the “majority sentiment” when reviewing slander and libel cases. Instead, the state’s legal precedence only demands that “’a substantial and respectable minority’ of the plaintiff’s community would consider it defamatory.”

Defamation Per Se and Per Quod

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Arkansas is one of the few states that doesn’t recognize defamation per se standards. As a result, all Arkansas slander and libel plaintiffs must provide proof that the speech in question caused harm. Inherent harm is not permissible under Arkansas defamation law.

In 1998, the Arkansas Supreme Court eliminated defamation per se via a verdict in United Insurance Company of America v. Murphy. The bench reasoned that per se exceptions are inherently unfair, explaining the position:

“By allowing presumed damages for certain words that fit within the per se categories but precluding actual damages for other words without additional proof of damages, the common law rule ‘creates unjustifiable inequities for plaintiffs and defendants alike.’ We believe that the better and more consistent rule…is to require plaintiffs to prove reputational injury in all cases.”

Thanks to our nationwide network of attorneys, Kelly / Warner is able to handle Alaska defamation cases. Get in touch today with an Arkansas defamation lawyer.