Texas Defamation Laws & Standards
Texas Defamation Definition
Defamation is when a party makes reputation ruining false statements of fact, about a person, product of business. The statements can be written (libel) or spoken (slander).
To win a defamation lawsuit in Texas, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant:
- Made a false statement or fact about the plaintiff to a third party;
- Made a statement that caused the plaintiff reputational or material harm;
- Acted either negligently or purposefully.
Public Figures and Public Officials Must Prove Actual Malice
Both public figure defamation plaintiffs and public official defamation plaintiffs must prove that the defendant acted with “actual malice,” which essentially means the defendant knew the statement was false, but publicized it anyway.
Private citizens don’t have to prove actual malice, only that the statements under review were negligent. Meaning, “reasonable care” wasn’t taken by the defendant to find out if the statements were false.
Texas Defamation Per Se
Texas also has a defamation charge known as “defamation per se.” It refers to some statements that anyone would, or should, know are likely to injure a person’s reputation. These statements include accusations of moral turpitude, criminality or allegations involving a loathsome disease.
2013 Texas Defamation Law Proposal
In March 2013, legislators debated a change in Texas defamation law. Proponents of the bill wanted to reduce the number of costly slander and libel cases. The bill proposed a three step process
- Within 90 days of the initial offense, the injured party requests the publisher or speaker retract or remove the material.
- The accused can ask why the retraction or removal is necessary or appropriate.
- If the accused agrees to retraction or removal, it must be done in the same manner as the original. For example, if the original story ran on page 2 of the local newspaper, the retraction must do the same.
Texas officials hope the shortened process will bring long litigation cases to a quicker close.