Mississippi Defamation Laws

Defining Defamation in Mississippi

Mississippi adheres to the common-law definition of defamation of character. Defamation, slander, and libel are viewed as statements meant to injure a person’s reputation or business. According to Mississippi state statutes, defamation, libel, and slander, “are considered as insults, and calculated to lead to a breach of the peace.” Such communication must be made to a third party without the consent or knowledge of the defamed person or business.

According to the statute of limitations in Mississippi, the plaintiff has one year to bring a cause of action against the defendant from the time the defamatory comment was rendered.

Who is a Public Figure According to Mississippi?

As with other states within the United States, Mississippi recognizes public figures as those who have a position of trust within the government to which they have been duly elected by the people. Public figures also include those who are generally well known because of their celebrity. Naturally, public figures have a harder time proving defamation, slander, or libel because they are in the public eye. They would have to prove the existence of actual malice on the part of the defendant who allegedly made injurious statements to ruin the public figures reputation.

Defenses for Defamation in Mississippi

No matter which state in which you live, truth is always a valid defense in defamation cases. In Mississippi, radio and television stations can also defend themselves from being named as defendants in lawsuits in which statements made by a political campaign are aired on television or radio broadcasts. Radio and television stations are absolved from liability only if the source of the alleged defamatory statement came from the political action committee or political campaign.

Opportunity to Retract or Correct

Mississippi gives news agencies such as newspapers, television stations, and radio stations the opportunity to retract or correct their statements in good faith if the alleged defamatory statement turned out to be an honest mistake even though the statement was believed to be true at the time of publication or broadcast. In this case the plaintiff can only recover actual damages if the jury finds in favor of the plaintiff.

A plaintiff can also demand a news agency to retract or correct alleged defamatory material within a 10 day time frame. If the news agency does not comply with the plaintiff’s demand, then the plaintiff can attempt to recover exemplary damages in addition to actual damages.

Mississippi is NOT a Per Se State

Mississippi is one of six states which does not recognize defamation per se within their state statutes. That means the plaintiff cannot bring a cause of action against the defendant for simply making alleged defamatory statements about the plaintiff’s alleged lack of chastity, alleged horrible disease, or alleged commission of a crime. The plaintiff has to prove that the statements were made to a third party without the plaintiff’s consent, and that the defendant acted with malice and negligence when communicating such statements to a third party.

Damages Awarded for Defamation in Mississippi

Among the damages for defamation in Mississippi include:

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