Defamation Guide for Libel & Slander in North Carolina: Part 2 – Requirements for Suit

North Carolina Requirements In Defamation Cases

Once you have determined if the statement made falls within North Carolina’s legal definition of defamation and which type of Plaintiff you are, your next step is to determine if you actually have a viable claim. To have a viable claim in a North Carolina court means you will need to have all of the following essential elements to prove defamation has occurred:

  • The statement is defamator;
  • The statement is false;
  • The statement was published or spoken to some third person[s];
  • In most circumstances, you have suffered actual damages; and
  • In most circumstances, you will need to prove the Defendant published the false statement with actual malice, which is publishing the statement with knowledge that the statement was false or publishing it with a reckless disregard for its truth or falsity.

What Damages Are Available?

Defamatory statements can damage your reputation and have a negative impact on your work and personal life. You may suffer physically, emotionally and financially. Harm can vary from a loss of earnings or other economic damages to serious health complications. Therefore, when individuals are successful in a defamation case, damages are generally awarded.

In defamation per se cases, damages are presumed and awarded for humiliation, damage to reputation, public disgrace, embarrassment, and distress. However, in defamation per quod cases actual damages must be proven in order to be awarded. Punitive damages, or damages meant to punish, are only awarded when the acts are especially malicious or reckless, and will be awarded at the discretion of a jury. Should the matter be of public concern, punitive damages are only awarded if the defamation was made with constitutional actual malice.

How do you prove actual injuries or harm?

One of the burdens of pursuing most defamation cases is proving actual damages suffered are directly related to the defamatory statement. Unlike injuries in an automobile accident or other personal injury case where injuries can be obvious, actual injuries in a defamation case are not so easy to pinpoint, nor are they easy to prove. While libel per se statements infer presumed damages, in other cases where actual harm is required, damages can include:

  • Loss of a job,
  • A significant financial decline in business patronage,
  • Loss of personal or business relationships,
  • Violent threats and/or physical attacks,
  • Severe emotional distress requiring medical treatment, and
  • In some cases medical complications, such as a stroke, heart attack, or other conditions that may be related to stress and anxiety from being defamed.

Additionally, if a defamatory statement is made and no one believes it then you may have a difficult time establishing actual damages.

Does North Carolina have Jurisdiction over a Defendant?

Another common hurdle in today’s world is where to seek relief. With most libel now occurring online, such as on social media and other websites, it is often asked where to file. This is especially true when the person or company making such a statement doesn’t reside in the same state as you. For statements made online, your best legal recourse will generally be to hold the individual who made the statement accountable. Not the website on which the statement was published.

Most of the time, North Carolina Courts do have jurisdiction over out-of-state Defendants when their actions have caused injury to someone in this state, but there are exceptions. When someone directs activity electronically into another state or has an intent to engage in business or interact with the other state, that state will have jurisdiction over the person. This does not mean that jurisdiction can be exercised over every person who places something on the internet simply because other persons in different states receive it. Jurisdictional questions can be complex and require the assistance of an experienced attorney. If you are unsure about where to seek relief, you need to speak with an attorney.

How Long Do You Have to Seek Defamation?

Under North Carolina statutes the time limit to bring a defamation case is one year. The one-year clock begins tolling once the statement was made or published. Not when it was discovered or when damages occurred. Therefore, if you believe you have a defamation claim you should act swiftly.

Defamation law is riddled with nuances and strict guidelines that must be carefully followed. At DeMent Askew Johnson & Marshall, we not only understand the hurt that comes with being publicly defamed but also the laws surrounding defamation. We will provide you with honest feedback about your options to ensure you are able to make informed decisions about restoring your reputation. Our attorneys are skilled defamation attorneys, with over 40 years of experience. We hold the record for the largest award in a defamation verdict ever in North Carolina. We can help you too. Call us today for a confidential consultation.

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We are now DeMent Askew Johnson & Marshall



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