Defamation Guide for Libel & Slander in North Carolina: Part 3 – Defenses

Defenses Available in Defamation Cases

If you have had a defamation case filed against you, or threatened to be filed, you should seek legal advice to determine what specific legal defenses are available. North Carolina recognizes a number of defenses and privileges for defamation cases, with the most common defenses including:

  • The truth is an absolute defense to defamation. Statements of fact that can be proven to be truthful are not defamatory. Additionally, North Carolina recognizes the substantial truth doctrine, which acknowledges that some statements may include some falsities. However, if the falsities are immaterial and the crux of the statement is true, then it will be protected under the doctrine of substantial truth.
  • Statements of opinion or those statements published with the intention to be humorous will not be accepted as factual statements and will be protected. You can also determine the intent of a statement based on where it was made or published. If it was in a comedy or opinion section, then it will be determined to be one of opinion and not interpreted as factual.
  • Legal Privileges are provided to certain individuals and allow them the right to communicate statements for a specific purpose. Even if the statements made are defamatory some individuals are protected under the following privileges:
    1. Absolute Privilege is granted in various court and governmental proceedings. Statements made during judicial hearings are absolutely privileged and are protected from defamation claims, even if statements are made with malice.
    2. Qualified Privilege is granted to persons with a common interest, generally in a position of trust or authority, and have a certain duty to make a certain type of statement known, such as journalists.
    3. Statutory Privileges provide situations and guidelines for communicating certain defamatory statements. This includes the libel-proof plaintiff doctrine which specifies that a person with a poor reputation in the community endures no harm and is immune from defamatory statements. Examples include those individuals who are habitual criminals.
    4. Fair Report Privilege protects statements, documents, reports, and other affidavits that are conveyed and contained in public records, such as arrests and arrest reports.
  • Wire Service Defense protects news organizations when re-publishing information in good faith when the information is received by wire service.

Defamation law is riddled with nuances and strict guidelines that must be carefully followed. At DeMent Askew & Johnson, 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.