Virginia defamation law offers protection for residents that are harmed when another person or entity makes a false statement about their life or character. There are requirements if the person wishes to file a lawsuit and win against that individual. In some cases, the person that has been “defamed” can even submit the statements to the police for criminal charges. Here is what the laws of Virginia State says about it and what the accused must do for the defamation to be considered “actionable.”
In order for the statements to be considered “actionable” they must be false accusations or false facts that harm the individual against which the statements are made. Here are some more details on what is defined as “harm.”
1) Accusations of committing a crime for which the person will be indicted or charged are considered defamatory if the charges are found to be false.
2) Any insinuation that the person has a communicable disease that could be spread to another person with contact is an actionable defamation of character.
3) Inferring that the person is not capable of performing his or her job when they are capable is deemed as actionable.
4) Any harm that is brought to the person that prevents them from working or harms his or her professional reputation.
The last point that must be proven is that the statements were made with intention of harm to the individual. This is the part that is more difficult to prove. In fact, this is the part where public opinion really comes into play. What is thought about the statement, or the reaction of the “audience,” is how the statement is perceived. If the plaintiff is able to prove that there was malice involved in the defamation, then they can win far more from the defendant.
Public individuals have fewer rights than private individuals because they hold a public position that is open to public opinion. Government officials are part of this public opinion as well. In fact, they tend to be open to even more defamation than other public individuals. As such, these people need to prove far more in order to be granted a suit.
The history of defamation suits in the United States comes into play with the case as well. In fact, the individual states can often determine the outcome of the suit. If other states have ruled in favor of the person that was defamed, then the suit is more likely to be won in Virginia as well. One such case is the 1964 case of New York Times verses Sullivan. The United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff. This is a case that can be used to win such a defamation case.
In cases regarding Virginia defamation laws, the plaintiff must prove several factors and be someone that is a private individual. While public officials and figures can wins such suits, their cases are far more difficult to prove. Malice must be proven in order for any case to be successfully prosecuted, but it is possible with the right attorney to handle the case.