Arkansas Defamation Laws
Arkansas is a traditionally minded state, and the state’s slander and libel laws reflect conservative ideals.
What constitutes Defamation in Arkansas?
In order for a written or spoken statement to be deemed legally defamatory in Arkansas, a plaintiff must prove:
1) How the statement in question 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
5) What types of damages the statement caused
Like in every other U.S. state, Arkansas statutes do not consider opinion to be defamation. Remember, Americans take the First Amendment seriously, which results in defendant-friendly slander and libel laws.
Defamation Statute of Limitations & Standards’ Threshold
Context is sacrosanct in Arkansas defamation law. All statements are evaluated based on surrounding text and circumstances. In addition, judges don’t consider the “majority sentiment” when reviewing slander and libel cases. Instead, the state’s legal precedence demands that only “’a substantial and respectable minority’ of the plaintiffs community would consider it defamatory.”
Defamation Per Se and Per Quod
Arkansas is one of the few states that doesn’t recognize defamation per se standards, meaning the plaintiffs must provide proof that the material in question caused harm. The Arkansas Supreme Court in 1998 eliminated defamation pro se via their verdict in United Insurance Company of America v. Murphy. The bench reasoned that per se exceptions are inherently unfair, explaining their position thusly:
“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.”