Alabama Defamation Law: Definition
In Alabama, any false, public and negligent speech, which degrades, projects hate or ruins a person’s reputation, is defamatory.
In Alabama, it’s the plaintiff’s responsibility plaintiff to prove that the defendant committed an act of defamation.
The defamation statute of limitations in Alabama is two years.
How Alabama Defamation Statutes Apply to People in the Public Eye
Any person who works for — or on behalf of — the government is considered a public figure under Alabama defamation law. Public figure plaintiffs, both all-purpose and limited-purpose, are required to prove actual malice (see sidebar for definition).
Retraction Rules & Money Exchanges
Defendants in Alabama defamation of character cases are given the opportunity to retract defamatory statements before a case heads to trial. Doing so can mitigate damages in the event of a loss for the defendant.
The retraction must be made within 10 days from the publication or distribution date of the defamatory speech. It also must be made in the same medium of communication of the original defamatory statement.
Moreover, if a retraction is published or communicated in a timely manner, the plaintiff can only recover actual damages, not punitive damages.
If money changes hands between the defendant and the plaintiff, in a good faith attempt to settle the matter, the jury cannot award further punitive damages to the plaintiff.
Alabama is a Defamation Per Se State
Individuals in Alabama can bring defamation per se charges against someone who makes false claims about chastity. This applies to any claims that were spoken, written, or published. Plaintiffs in such situations don’t have to prove monetary loss because false claims of moral turpitude are considered inherently defamatory under Alabama defamation law. Same rules apply for accusations of criminality.
Alabama Defamation Damages
Allowable defamation damages in Alabama include:
- Punitive Damages;
- Compensatory Damages; and
- Case-Specific Damages Awarded at the Court’s Discretion.
Punitive damages are only possible if the plaintiff proves that the defendant acted recklessly, maliciously and/or negligently.
Update March 2015: Alabama legislators are currently considering a bill that would affect online defamation standards in Alabama. The bill’s synopsis:
“Websites containing personal information of persons convicted of crimes, required to remove information at no charge upon request, civil penalties, presumption of defamation” (Source)