Massachusetts Defamation Laws & Standards
Massachusetts on Defamation:
“A plaintiff alleging libel must ordinarily establish five elements: (1) that the defendant published a written statement; (2) of and concerning the plaintiff; that was both (3) defamatory, and (4) false; and (5) either caused economic loss, or is actionable without proof of economic loss.”
Massachusetts’ defamation statute of limitations is three years.
What Is Defamation?
Defamation is the act of unjustifiably injuring the good reputation of a party via misleading or untrue malicious statements. Libel is defamation through words or graphics. Slander is spoken defamation.
Winning A Massachusetts Defamation Claim
To win a Massachusetts defamation claim, plaintiffs must prove that their respective defendants made false and defamatory statements, to a third-party, which caused material or reputational harm.
Damage to a person’s reputation means that the statement resulted in a person being ridiculed, hated or held in contempt, in a given community. Acts of defamation can also be lodged against a business, which is called “trade libel.”
Negligence or Actual Malice
In the state of Massachusetts, injured parties must prove that their respective defendants acted, in the very least, negligently.
If the plaintiff is a public figure, he or she must also prove actual malice, which means the public figure must prove that the defendant knew the information was false but published or broadcast the info anyway.
Substantially True Isn’t Defamatory
Under Massachusetts defamation law, statements don’t have to be perfectly accurate to be true. For example, if a person states that another person was convicted of drunk driving two times when that person was only convicted one time, the statement may be considered to be substantially true and therefore out of slander or libel bounds.