Maryland Defamation Laws
Defining Defamation in Maryland
In Maryland, defamation is any nonfactual and negligent statement — spoken or written — about a person or business that injures said party’s reputation. In order for a statement to be considered defamatory, it must be made to a third-party without consent of the defamed.
The Maryland defamation statute of limitations is one year.
Who is a Public Figure According to Maryland Defamation Law?
In Maryland, to win a slander or libel lawsuit, public figures must prove the existence of actual malice on the part of the defendant. Private figures, however, only have to prove negligence on the part of the defendant.
Maryland recognizes people elected to public office or people holding positions of public trust as public figures. In addition, celebrities — of both the local and national variety — are considered public figures under Maryland law.
Defamation Defenses in Maryland
Defamation is a nuanced area of law, and each slander and libel case comes with its own set of facts. Those facts play an important role in the outcome. Generally speaking, though, the following defense arguments have worked for defamation defendants in Maryland:
- Truth, substantiated by facts;
- Pure Opinion
- Fair Reporting;
- No Harm;
- No Negligence;
- Lack of Intent; and
Maryland is a Per Se State
Maryland allows plaintiff’s to file defamation suits under a provision known as defamation per se. Defamation per se means that the contested statement(s) are inherently defamatory. To wit, statements of moral turpitude, criminality or fraud are considered defamatory per se as the harm is evident.
In defamation per se cases, the plaintiff does not have to prove actual damages to win.
Damages Awarded for Defamation in Maryland
In Maryland, successful slander and libel plaintiffs can be awarded the following types of damages:
- Actual damages;
- Punitive damages; and
- Other case-specific damages awarded by the court.
Political Implications Under MD Defamation Law
The media (broadcast, print and online) can be held responsible for defamatory statements, made by employees, on behalf of a political candidate against an opponent.