Montana Defamation Laws & Standards
Montana Defamation Definitions
A defamatory statement is one that damages the reputation of a person, business or group. Libel is written defamation; slander is spoken.
If an inaccurate story is printed in a newspaper, Montana defamation law says the paper may be charged with libel. However, if the paper can show that it had no reason to believe the statement was false at the time of the printing, libel will not be charged. Same goes for video and radio broadcasts.
Montana Defamation: Private v. Public
In Montana, as in all 50 states, public figures must meet a higher standard of proof to win a defamation claim. In such cases, the famous plaintiff must prove actual malice — or, to put it another way, “intentional lying to cause harm.”
Employee Reference Libel Laws in Montana
In most cases, a former employer who gives a reference to a prospective employer about a person cannot be sued for libel because over the assessment so long as the information is not knowingly false. In that way, the former employer is protected from a lawsuit by the ex-employee.
But Montana is somewhat different. Its law says that an employer has to give a truthful statement about why the ex-employee was discharged. It does not, however, actually state that the employer cannot be sued for giving out the data.
Montana Defamation: Civil and Criminal
Montana is one of 17 states that has a so-called criminal defamation law. It charges a person with giving a communication about someone and in doing so implies that the written or verbal statement is a fact when it is really false. In states that still have criminal defamation laws on the books, it’s a difficult charge to prove because the First Amendment protects freedom of speech rights for all U.S. citizens.