Privilege: An Effective Defamation Defense

Let's talk about privilege as it relates to defamation lawsuits.
Let’s talk about privilege as it relates to defamation lawsuits.

One way to win a defamation lawsuit is to successfully argue privilege. 

In the simplest terms, privilege is when one person tells something to another person — either out of obligation or because it’s understood that the relationship between the two parties is inherently confidential. Common examples of privileged relationships include:

  • Attorney-Client Privilege (Solicitor-Client in commonwealth countries)
  • Marital Privilege
  • Self-Incrimination
  • Doctor-Client Privilege
  • Clergy-Penitent Privilege
  • Accountant-Client Privilege
  • States Secrets Privilege

In addition to the above, three other types of privilege often play a role in defamation lawsuits since “privileged communication” is a valid defense against slander and libel charges.

Defamation of Character Privilege Defense: Reporter’s Privilege

Simply stated, “reporters’ privilege” allows journalists to keep their sources private. Notionally, it’s how the Fourth Estate keeps its neutrality (though, these days, news neutrality has gone the way of box cars).

What you may not know is that reporters’ privilege varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In fact, 10 U.S. states don’t have so-called “Shield Laws” – which protects journalists from being forced to reveal sources.

Defamation of Character Privilege Defense: Qualified Privilege

Qualified privilege is a common defamation defense. Essentially, qualified privilege kicks in when a party is compelled – socially, morally, or legally — to relay information to another party. For example, an employee may feel they have no other option than to tell a superior a given piece of information, which could ultimately turn out to be defamatory.

For a communication to qualify as privileged in a defamation lawsuit, two factors must be met:

  1. The person must have acted without malice, and
  2. The person who received the information had a reason to receive it.

Defamation of Character Privilege Defense:  Absolute Privilege

Another privilege defense is absolute privilege, meaning the statements in question were uttered in the course of judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding.

Hire A Defamation Lawyer

Are you entangled in a defamation conflict? Need to speak with an attorney about your options? Contact Kelly Warner Law. Our team has helped many people with their slander and libel troubles. We know the fastest ways to rectify defamation situations. Contact us to get started.

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