In the State of Indiana, defamation is a common law offense that requires the showing of four specific elements. We’ve covered these elements elsewhere, but let’s run through them quickly.
Elements of Defamation
The first element is a statement with a defamatory imputation. This means someone has said something about you that causes your reputation to suffer.
The second element is malice. In this context, malice means that the speaker either knew what they were saying was false or, at the very least, they showed a reckless disregard for its accuracy.
The third element is publication, and this just means that the statement has been communicated. Typing it up, painting it on a wall, or speaking it aloud can all count as publication.
The fourth and final element is damages. You need to be able to show tangible losses that you’ve suffered as a result of the defamation. Hurt feelings and wounded pride are not enough.
Defamation Per Se
Some statements are considered so fundamentally offensive that we’ve labeled them defamatory per se. This means that the statement is so obviously damaging that you don’t need to show how or why it was harmful to your reputation.
Courts have held that there are four types of communication so potentially poisonous as to qualify as defamatory per se. This means the statement is harmful in and of itself. It is considered defamation per se to level accusations of:
- criminal conduct;
- having a loathsome disease;
- professional misconduct; or
- sexual misconduct.
Damages Are Presumed
With defamation per se, two of the four elements are easier to prove. On the front end, you don’t need to explain why the accusations of wrongdoing were harmful to your reputation, and on the back end, damages are presumed. This means the plaintiff is entitled to damages as a natural and probable consequence of the defamation.
Make the Right Call
If you believe you’re the victim of defamation, you should probably speak to an attorney. Defamation cases are difficult to prove. A case of defamation per se is going to be slightly easier, but you’re still facing an uphill battle.
If you’re considering a defamation claim, give us a call at 317-632-3642. Stay safe and look out for each other.