At The Law Office of Jeremiah A. Denton III, our lawyers offer straightforward legal counsel and representation. Our staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and available. We have a thorough understanding of Virginia defamation law and are here to help clients use the law to achieve justice. We sue those who make defamatory statements to compensate our clients for—
- Injury to your reputation, both personal and professional
- Humiliation and mental distress
- Financial losses
Since defamation lawsuits in Virginia generally must be filed within one year of the date the statement was first made, it is important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
A primer on defamation law
Defamation, also referred to as slander and libel, is a false verbal or written statement of fact injuring someone’s reputation. There is a fine line between what constitutes defamation and what does not. Insults and unfavorable opinions, for example, are not defamation as they are not factual statements. A statement must be factual but false to be defamatory.
The identity of the speaker must be considered when deciding what constitutes defamation. Your boss, for example, has more leeway to criticize you than the man on the street or the media. Public figures have a harder time proving defamation than private individuals because they must prove that the person defaming them knew the statement was false when the statement was made.
You should know…
- In Virginia you must know (or be able to find out) the exact wording of a defamatory statement to win a defamation suit. The suit must allege the defendant’s statement word-for-word.
- Statements are considered in context. What is defamatory in one context may not be in another.
- A statement has to be provably false to be defamatory. Mere opinions are not defamatory, but opinion mixed with false factual statements can be.
- Defamatory statements made to you only are not “actionable.” Generally speaking, you can only sue for defamatory statements “published” to third parties.
- As defamation’s essence is injury to reputation, you do not have to prove a dollar and cents loss to win a dollar and cents award. Doing so, however, often increases the potential amount of your recovery.
- False implications of fact, even if literally true, can count as defamation. If someone says without reason that you may be under criminal investigation, the speaker is implying you have committed a crime, which can make the speaker liable for defamation.
- With the exception of punitive damages, there is no set limit on damages in Virginia defamation cases. Punitive damages are limited to $350,000.
- Easy or early settlements are rarer than you may expect. Cases resolved early are often heavily discounted. You must be prepared for a long battle if you hope to receive full compensation in defamation cases—and only then if you are clearly in the right and have a lawyer willing to go the distance with you.
- In our experience, defamation cases that go to trial and are successful often result in recoveries far, far above the defendant’s highest settlement offer.
We insist on justice
Located close to Lynnhaven Mall in Virginia Beach, our practice serves clients throughout Virginia.
Contact our office to discuss whether you have grounds for a defamation lawsuit.