Minnesota Defamation Law: Legal Overview

Minnesota defamation law and lawyers
Minnesota Slander and Libel Laws

Minnesota Defamation Definition

Defamation in Minnesota is anything that directs hate, contempt, degradation, disgrace or degradation to a person or business. According to Minnesota statutes, defamation, is a civil offense.. (2015 UPDATE: The Minnesota Legislator overturned that states criminal defamation law. Source, Source)

In MN slander cases, at least two people must testify to hearing — and negatively interpreting — the statement(s) under legal review.

Minnesota’s defamation statute of limitations is two years.

Minnesota Defamation: Who is a Public Figure?

Celebrity’s & Government Workers Are One In The Same

Minnesota defamation law defines a “public figure” as someone who’s gained notoriety as a result of his or her occupation or celebrity. Government officials, by virtue of being public servants, are also recognized as public figures, for the purposes of Minnesota’s defamation of character laws.

Public Figures Must Meet A Higher Burden of Proof In Minnesota Slander and Libel Cases

In defamation lawsuits, private figure plaintiffs only need to prove negligence, but public figures must prove actual malice. Actual malice is a legal premise wherein a defamation defendant knowingly communicates a false statement of fact, with the intention of causing another party harm.

Defenses for Defamation in Minnesota

Minnesota accepts several defamation defenses.

Truth

A defendant who communicates the truth, with bona fide intentions and justifiable ends, is entitled to defend himself in that manner.

Privilege

Privileged speech — for example: statements in official reports and professional reviews — are also acceptable defamation defenses in Minnesota.

Substantial Truth

Plaintiffs can’t win defamation lawsuits on a small error. In order to win, the claimant must prove that the false statement of fact (i.e., “lie”) under review was significant enough to affect the overall impression. For example, one can’t win a slander or libel lawsuit for reporting that someone stole $500, when it was only $200 — unless the difference between $500 and $200 in the context of the case makes it significant.

Good Faith

Due to the First Amendment of the US Constitution, if people honestly believe their statements, and can prove they did proper research before publication or broadcast, then the act is not defamatory. In order to win a U.S. slander or libel lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove either negligence or actual malice.

Minnesota is a Per Se State

Minnesota is one of 44 states that recognizes defamation per se. That means that in Minnesota, certain accusations are considered inherently defamatory. As such, plaintiffs in per se cases don’t have to prove actual harm, because the harm is implicit.

The following accusations are considered per se defamatory under MN law:

  • “Lack of Chastity”;
  • A “Loathsome Disease”; and
  • Criminal Activity.

Again — per se or not — public figures must always prove actual malice, if the case relates to their “public figure” status.

Allowable Defamation Award Damages In Minnesota

Categories of defamation damages in Minnesota include:

  • Punitive;
  • Compensatory; and
  • Emotional and Mental Distress.
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Due to a nationwide network of attorneys, Kelly / Warner is able to handle Minnesota defamation cases. Get in touch today.