Connecticut Defamation: A Plain English Legal Overview
In Connecticut, defamation is the act of publicly making or distributing a false statement of fact about another person or business. The defamatory statement is libel if written and slander if spoken.
In Connecticut, defamation is a tort, or civil wrong. If a person is defamed, they are entitled to file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator and seek monetary damages.
Defamation laws in Connecticut are designed to prevent injury to another person’s or company’s reputation, esteem, respect or goodwill.
Elements of Defamation in Connecticut
Establishing a Connecticut defamation claim requires the following:
- The statement under review must be false. The false statement can be made willfully, recklessly or negligently;
- The statement must have been “published” or communicated to a third party. Privately accusing another person of egregious conduct, without the accusation heard by a third party, will not support a defamation claim in CT;
- The statement under review must identify the defamed party, but the identification need not be made only by name. For instance, if someone falsely states, “My business partner is a thief” and the third person knows the business partner, that is enough to launch a successful claim;
- The subject must suffer reputational damage as a result of the statement. Whether the claimant actually suffered damage is usually a question for a jury or judge to decide.
Criminal Defamation in Connecticut
Connecticut does not have a criminal defamation statute. However, some professionals, such as attorneys, may be subject to disciplinary sanctions for publication of defamatory statements.
Connecticut Defamation Per Se
Defamation per se is a special form of libel or slander, in which an individual is falsely accused of an inherently defamatory act or condition. Whether a slanderous or libelous statement is considered defamatory per se is a question for the court, rather than a jury, to decide.
In Connecticut, defamation per se claims can usually be sought in instances where the defendant accused the plaintiff of:
- Improper conduct, lack of skill or integrity in one’s profession;
- A crime involving moral turpitude;
- A crime resulting in an “infamous” penalty. Infamous normally means a prison sentence.
Connecticut Defamation Statute of Limitations
Connecticut’s defamation statute of limitations is longer than most states. Under Connecticut General Statutes § 52-597 a plaintiff has two years to file a slander or libel claim.
Connecticut Defamation Damages
The laws of Connecticut provide for general damages in defamation lawsuits. Allowable damages include mental suffering compensation, as well as actual damages for reputational or material loss suffered as a result of the act.
Defamation Per Se
When the plaintiff establishes a claim of defamation per se, damages are presumed by law. Plaintiffs in defamation per se cases don’t have to prove actual damages.
Special damages are awarded when plaintiffs can prove they suffered economic damage. Loss of employment and loss of business profit count as economic loss.
Punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer and may be awarded the defamatory act was committed “willfully, wantonly or with reckless disregard for the truth.” Punitive damages in Connecticut are limited to attorney fees and expenses related to litigation.
A court or jury may also award nominal damages if it finds the act of defamation insignificant. A sum of $1.00 is typical of a nominal damage award. It’s possible to be awarded both punitive and nominal damages.
A nationwide network of attorneys, Means Kelly / Warner can handle Connecticut defamation cases. Contact us.