New Jersey Defamation Laws & Standards

New Jersey Defamation
New Jersey Slander and Libel Standards

New Jersey Defamation Definition

New Jersey defines defamation as a deliberate or negligent, substantially false statement made to a third-party.

Under New Jersey defamation law, to win, most plaintiffs must demonstrate material loss. The exception being defamation per se claims [See sidebar for defamation per se definition].

New Jersey Defamation Statute of Limitations

New Jersey’s defamation statute of limitations is one year. Or, to put it another way, potential defamation plaintiffs, filing in a New Jersey court, have one year, from when the allegedly defamatory statement was made, to file a claim. In some circumstances, the clock may not start ticking till the statement is discovered. Talk to an attorney about your specific situation.

Negligence and Actual Malice Under NJ Slander and Libel Law

At a minimum, plaintiffs must demonstrate that defendants acted negligently in making the statement in question. When a statement is about a public matter, plaintiffs must prove that their respective defendants acted with actual malice.

Public Figures and Private Figures Treated Differently Under the Law

NJ Officials Can Be Considered Public Figures In Slander and Libel Lawsuits

New Jersey’s definition of a public figure falls in line with the 1966 United States Supreme Court decision in Rosenblatt v. Baer, which includes government workers and officials.

In past New Jersey defamation cases, people holding the following jobs were labeled “public figures” for the purposes of work-related defamation lawsuits:

  1. Tax Assessor
  2. Incumbent Mayor
  3. Police Officer
  4. Building Inspector
  5. Public School Employee

Limited Purpose Public Figures: Famous For A Short Time

New Jersey also recognizes limited purpose public figures.

Question: What is a limited purpose public figure?

Answer: Private citizens who inject themselves into public controversies may be considered public figures for the purposes of related slander and libel lawsuits.

Defamation Defense in New Jersey

Common defenses under New Jersey defamation laws:

  • Truth
  • Opinion
  • Wire service defense
  • General reporting or neutral reportage
  • Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (See Sidebar)

New Jersey and Per Se Damages

Defamation plaintiffs in New Jersey can seek per se damages for libel or slander. This means the plaintiff can sue the defendant for falsely disparaging a plaintiff’s promiscuity, health status (in certain circumstances), or alleged criminality. In these instances, plaintiffs can seek damages without proving economic loss.

Damages Awarded for Defamation in New Jersey

Allowable New Jersey defamation damages include:

  • Actual Damages
  • Compensatory Damages
  • Punitive Damages

Notable Defamation of Character Cases in New Jersey Dealing with Public Figures of a Limited Scope

Gulrajaney v. Petricha (2005) – Plaintiff was a candidate for a condominium board of directors.

Schwartz v. Worrall Publ’ns (1992) – New Jersey School Board Association Case

LoBiondo v. Schwartz (1999) – A construction project’s land-use applicant and project deemed a matter of public interest.