Louisiana Defamation Laws

Defining Defamation in Louisiana

Louisiana defines defamation as a means of communication – written or spoken – that is meant to injure a person or business’ reputation and livelihood. Under Louisiana law, a private person can sue another person without having to prove actual malice. Private persons only need to demonstrate to the court that the defendant was negligent when communicating the defamatory statement to a third party.

According to Louisiana State Statutes: Whoever commits the crime of defamation shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars, or imprisoned for not more than six months, or both.

The plaintiff in a defamation case has one year from the time the libelous or slanderous statements were made about him or her, or about the business. This is in keeping with Louisiana’s statute of limitations.

Who is Deemed a Public Figure According to Louisiana?

Obviously, someone who has gained fame by his or her celebrity, anyone serving as a government official, or political figure. Generally speaking, public figures have a more difficult road on which to travel when it comes to defamation of character cases. A public figure, as the plaintiff for a defamation suit must prove that actual malice existed on the part of the defendant. This means the plaintiff has to show the defendant exhibited a complete disregard for the truth when making alleged defamatory statements against the plaintiff.

Defenses for Defamation in Louisiana

For cases of online defamation, the courts in Louisiana recognize Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act as a valid defense for webmasters who have not instructed a third party to post defamatory material regarding a person or business.

Defendants are allowed to defend themselves when the alleged defamatory statement is the truth. Judges and juries also take into consideration whether or not the defamatory statement in question falls within the category of what is called, “a privileged statement.” In that case, the defendant can claim the alleged defamatory statement is included under the General Reporting privilege for a news story or other public iteration in which one’s opinion is expressed. However, the burden is still on the plaintiff to prove the defendant acted with malice and negligence when communicating an alleged defamatory statement to a third party.

Louisiana is a Per Se State

The defamation, libel, and slander statutes enacted by Louisiana give plaintiffs the latitude to file a Defamation Per Se complaint against a defendant. Defamation Per Se constitutes defamatory material that is by itself defamatory. Statements falsely accusing the plaintiff of sexual immorality, false accusations of criminal behavior, or false statements of the plaintiff having a contagious disease such as HIV/AIDS are grounds for a case of Defamation Per Se. Under Defamation Per Se, the plaintiff does not have to prove damages in order to successfully litigate his/her defamation of character case because the statements are by themselves defamatory.

Damages Awarded for Defamation in Louisiana

Among the damages for defamation in Louisiana include:

  • actual damages
  • punitive damages
  • other damages awarded by the court