New Mexico Defamation Laws & Standards

New Mexico Defamation

New Mexico Defamation Definition

Defamation is the communication, of a false, harmful, negligent statement that damages the reputation of an individual, business, product, group, or nation.

Statutes for libel and slander can be found in the 2011 New Mexico Code, sections 41-7-1 through 41-7-6. A plaintiff must prove the defendant communicated a false statement of fact to a third-party.

In section 30-11-1 of the New Mexico Code, libel is considered “making, writing, publishing, selling, or circulating without good motives and justifiable ends, any false and malicious statement which affects the reputation, business, or occupation of another. In addition, statement that expose parties to hatred, contempt, ridicule, degradation, or disgrace may be considered defamatory.

Slander v. Libel

The two subgroups of defamation are slander and libel. Slander is spoken defamation; libel is written or graphical defamation.

Perception Matters

For a statement to be deemed defamatory it must be a false statement of fact; opinions aren’t slanderous or libelous. Moreover, under New Mexico defamation standards, perception matters. If a statement can be reasonably interpreted as a false statement of fact, instead of an opinion, the statement can be ruled defamatory. (In other words, qualifying a statement with “IMO” or “In my opinion” isn’t an effective shield if it’s followed by an untrue accusation.

There are several defenses to slander and libel, the biggest being “truth.” As repulsive as a statement may be, if it is true, then it is not defamation.

Small Mistakes Usually Don’t Qualify As Defamation

Because of residents’ “right to make a complaint to the ‘conscience of the state,'” Under New Mexico defamation laws, small inaccuracies don’t amount to slander or libel.

Employment Defamation

Under New Mexico law, a former employee can establish a defamation claim against a former employer by proving:

  • The employer communicated the defamatory statement to someone other than the employee;
  • The communicated statement contained inaccurate facts;
  • The communication was about the employee;
  • The statement of fact was false;
  • The statement was indeed defamatory;
  • The persons receiving the communication understood it to be defamatory;
  • The defendant was aware that the communicated statements were false, failed to recognize it as false through negligence, or acted with malicious intent;
  • The communication was injurious to the employee’s reputation;
  • The employer abused the privilege to publish the communication in question.

Defamation Defenses

Every New Mexico defamation case differs and presents its own unique defenses. That said, certain justifications are frequently used in slander and libel lawsuits.

  1. Truth
  2. Privilege
  3. Fair Comment
  4. Section 230 of the CDA
  5. Statement Not Harmful
  6. Reasonable Comment / Opinion

Click here to read about common defamation defenses, and here to get deeper into the privilege defense.