Defining Defamation in Mississippi
Mississippi adheres to the common law definition of defamation of character.
Defamation — slander if spoken and libel if written — are viewed as statements meant to injure a person’s reputation or business. According to Mississippi defamation law, statements are deemed libelous or slanderous if they “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.
Mississippi Defamation Statute of Limitations
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, 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 slander or libel because they’re required — by law — to meet the “actual malice” proof standard, whereas “private citizens” only must prove negligence on the part of the defendant.
Political Defamation in Mississippi
Truth is always a valid Mississippi defamation defense.
Mississippi also has a unique political defamation standard. 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.
Defenses for Defamation in Mississippi
Slander and libel defenses in Mississippi stick fairly close to national standards, which you can read about here.
Opportunity to Retract or Correct
Mississippi gives news outlets the opportunity to retract or correct statements, in good faith, if the alleged defamatory statement was an honest mistake. In these situations, the plaintiff can only recover actual damages if the jury finds in favor of the plaintiff.
A plaintiff can also demand that a news agency retract or correct defamatory material within 10 days. If the outlet 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 the few states that doesn’t recognize defamation per se. Meaning, harm is not inherently implied in cases involving accusations of promiscuity, disease, or criminal activity. Or, to put it another way, plaintiffs must prove harm when their respective defendants make accusations like:
- X is a prostitute.
- X has a sexually transmitted disease.
- X stole money.
In most other states, the harm is implicit in these types of statements, and defamation plaintiffs don’t have to prove harm.
Damages Awarded for Defamation in Mississippi
Among the damages for defamation in Mississippi include:
- Actual damages
- Punitive damages
- Other damages awarded by the court