Hawaii Defamation Laws and Standards
Hawaii Defamation Law
To bring a defamation lawsuit in Hawaii, the plaintiff must provide evidence that the defendant:
- Made a false statement of fact, which was unprivileged, about the plaintiff;
- Acted either negligently (if the plaintiff is a private citizen) or with actual malice (if the plaintiff is a public figure);
- Made an untrue statement that caused reputation and / or material harm to befall the plaintiff.
Qualified Privilege Under Hawaii Defamation Law
In the Aloha State, the ability to bring a defamation action depends partly on whether or not the statement in question was “unprivileged,” meaning the defendant’s statements were not protected under another law. Generally speaking, under Hawaii defamation law, qualified privilege is present when:
- The author of statement “reasonably acts” in some “public or private duty, legal, moral or social.”
- When the subject of the statement in question is a matter of public interest. Specifically, from the Hawaii State statutes: “subject matter in which both the author and the recipient of the publication have a correlative interest or duty.”
In order for a statement to pass the qualified privilege test the author and “recipient” must share a common interest in the subject matter (i.e., a public political campaign) and the author acted reasonably.
Defamation Per Se in Hawaii
Hawaii recognizes defamation per se, which means that a statement is harmful, in it of itself. As such, the plaintiff does not have to prove harm, because the mere accusation resulted in significant reputational harm for the plaintiff.
In Hawaii, the following types of accusations are considered defamatory per se:
- Criminal conduct
- Trade Libel or Product Disparagement
- Carrier of a Loathsome Disease
- Certain Sexual Accusations
Thanks to our nationwide network of attorneys, Kelly / Warner can handle Hawaii defamation cases. Contact us today.