Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Defamation Definition:

An attack on the good reputation of a person, by slander or libel.

Related Terms: Tort, Libel, Slander, Defamatory Libel, Absolute Privilege, Qualified Privilege, Common Interest Privilege, Fair Comment, Judicial Proceeding, Mitigating Circumstances, In haec verba

Gatley on Libel and Slander defines the term as follows:

"Defamation is committed when the defendant publishes to a third person words or matter containing an untrue imputation against the reputation of the claimant.

"Broadly speaking, if the publication is made in a permanent form or is broadcast or is part of a theatrical performance, it is libel; if it is in some transient form, it is slander."

 In Laufer, the Manitoba Court of Appeal stated that:

"Defamation occurs when words are published to a third person that contain an imputation which tends to lower the plaintiff in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally or to expose him to hatred, contempt, or ridicule.

"To be actionable, the words must be reasonably understood by others in a defamatory sense."

In Hodgkinson, the Ontario Court of Appeal added:

"Defamation exists once a statement has been published lowering the plaintiff’s reputation whether it is true or not.

"There is a legal presumption of falsity after defamation is established."

Defamation, as a cause of action and as a tort, has a long history in the civil law but is of more recent vintage in the common law. At first, the Courts did not seek to investigate why any slanderous statement was made: it was strict liability, and for which, for a time, the offender had his tongue cut out. Libel was not immediately an issue as few could read and write.

French: diffamation.

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