Maine Defamation Laws & Standards
Defining Defamation in Maine
False and negligent statements about a person or business, which materially injure the reputation of a person or business, are considered defamatory under Maine defamation law. In order to fall within the realm of defamation, statements must be made to a third party without consent.
The defamation statute of limitations in Maine is two years.
Who is a Public Figure According to Maine?
U.S. defamation laws — both federal and state — differentiate between private- and public-figure plaintiffs. The former only has to prove negligence to win a slander or libel lawsuit, while the latter must demonstrate actual malice on the part of the defendant.
Under Maine defamation law, public-figures include:
- Elected officials (local, state and national);
- People who have gained “general name recognition” within the community; and
- National and international celebrities.
Simply stated: it’s much more difficult (though not impossible) for public figures to win defamation of character lawsuits than it is for private citizens.
Maine Defamation Defenses
Maine recognizes a host of defenses in defamation of character cases. They include:
- Truth: Thanks to the First Amendment and long-established case law, truth is always a viable defense against defamation in the United States.
- Privilege: There are lots of different categories of privilege under U.S. law. Most notably, professional privilege. If a party is obligated to report suspicions to a superior — and they are valid suspicions — it is difficult to win a defamation lawsuit against said party.
- Good Faith Reporting: News reports published or broadcast in good faith that represent a fair report or summary of any public proceeding s are also included under the privileged document designation.
- Section 230 of the CDA: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act holds website operators and ISPs harmless for third-party, user-generated defamatory content. The defense, however, flies out the window if the website or ISP had a hand in producing or eve editing the disputed content.
Maine is a Per Se State
Maine allows plaintiffs to file defamation suits under a provision known as defamation per se. Defamation per se means that the alleged defamatory statement(s), which are repeated by a defendant to a third party, are inherently defamatory.
False implications of:
- Moral turpitude; and
- A loathsome disease
fall under the per se umbrella according to Maine defamation case law.
In defamation per se cases, the plaintiff does not have to prove actual damages to successfully litigate a slander or libel case because the aforementioned are enough to ruin a reputation.
Damages Awarded for Defamation in Maine
Among the damages for defamation in Maine include:
- Actual damages;
- Punitive damages; and
- Other damages awarded by the court