Indiana Defamation Laws & Standards
Defining Defamation in Indiana
Slander is spoken defamation; libel is written or graphically transmitted defamation.
To win an defamation lawsuit in Indiana, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant:
- Made an unprivileged false statement of fact about the plaintiff;
- Said statement caused the plaintiff material harm; and
- Acted either negligently or with actual malice.
Statute of Limitations for Indiana Defamation
The statute of limitations for defamation in Indiana is two years.
Indiana is unique regarding the interpretation of its statute of limitations on libel and slander. Most states start the limitations clock from the time the defamatory statement was published or broadcast. However, the Indiana courts have ruled that the statute of limitations begins when the “damage” of the statement is “susceptible of ascertainment.” In other words, Indiana starts the clock when the plaintiff figures out the nature of the damages caused by the defamatory statement.
Public vs. Private Figures Under Indiana Defamation Law
For defamation lawsuits, Indiana makes a distinction between the private and public figures. Public figures are considered those people who are elected officials or famous — locally, nationally, internationally and in some cases for a limited amount of time (i.e., 15 minute of famers).
Public figures must prove that the defendant acted with actual malice. Private figures, however, only need to prove that the defendant was negligent in making a defamatory statement.
Defenses for Defamation in Indiana
Naturally, truth is a viable defamation defense. Indiana also recognizes the fair reporting and general reporting privilege for reporters.
Many defendants in online libel cases successfully argue on the grounds of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which basically holds webmasters harmless when defamatory content is published to their websites by third parties.
Indiana is a Per Se State
In Indiana, defamation per se constitutes any publication or statement that is, by itself, defamatory. Defamation Per Se statements include, but are not limited to:
- Statements related to the plaintiff’s sexual misconduct;
- Statements related to the plaintiff having a contagious disease;
- Criminal accusations; and
- Professional misconduct assertions.
Damages Awarded for Defamation in Indiana
Among the damages for defamation in Indiana include:
- Actual Damages
- Compensatory Damages
- Punitive Damages