Rhode Island Defamation Laws

Defining Defamation in Rhode Island

In the state of Rhode Island, defamation consists of false statements (spoken or written) about an individual which are communicated to one or more people. The statements need to have caused damages and harmed the person’s reputation and/or standing in the community. The statute of limitations for defamation in Rhode Island can vary. R.I.G.L § 9-1-14 states that “(a) Actions for words spoken shall be commenced and sued within one year next after the words spoken (b) Actions for injuries to the person shall be commenced and sued within three (3) years next after the cause of action shall accrue, and not after.”

Private Figure or Public Figure

As in other states, there is a difference if the person who is claiming defamation is a public figure or a private figure. For the former, the burden of proof rests on them to show that there was actual malice involved in the false statements that were published or communicated. In cases where journalists or other people in the media are reporting on public figures, there are different requirements for the public figure or politician in court.

Defenses Allowed for Defamation Cases

Rhode Island is similar to many other states when it comes to the allowed defenses for defamation cases. However, it should be noted that in Rhode Island truth cannot be used as a defense when a statement was made with malicious motives. (R.I. Const. art. I, § 20; R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-6-9 (1998)) Rhode Island is in the minority when it comes to this, but it is something that is on their law books.

Defamation Per Se Civil Suits are Permissible in Rhode Island

Defamation Per Se refers to cases where the damages associated with the defamation are assumed and do not need to be proven. The amount of the damages possible with defamation per se civil suits in Rhode Island will vary depending on a number of factors. In general, however, defamation per se suits are allowed in Rhode Island.

Recoverable Damages Allowed by Rhode Island State Law

Proving specific damages caused by libel and slander can be sometimes tough to prove, but in cases that are not defamation per se, this is up to the plaintiff in the case to prove in court. There are generally several different types of damages that may be awarded, including actual damages that can be proved in court as well as the possibility of punitive damages.