Though it’s  not something most people encounter on a regular basis (thankfully), the fact  is defamation does occur and may even be occurring with more regularity given  the rise of the Internet. The perceived anonymity of the online world has led  some people to make vile and untruthful statements about others, which can result in a defamation lawsuit.

 What is defamation?

 Defamation  exists when a person’s reputation has been harmed and is defined as the making  of false statements, either oral or written, about another person. There are  two types of defamation in Tennessee: libel and slander.


 Libel covers  any form of defamation that is written. This includes newspaper articles,  letters and even online comments. It’s important to note that you cannot simply  sue someone for libel because they have said something annoying, embarrassing  or offensive about you. Instead, the legal test for libel is if the  statement holds you up to public ridicule.

 To prove  libel the injured party (the plaintiff), has to prove that the defendant either  knew the statement was false or that he or she failed to take the proper steps  to determine whether it was true. A defendant can respond by proving that  the statement made was true.

 The exception  to this is if the plaintiff is a public figure. It can be tricky to determine  who qualifies as a public figure. Politicians or famous actors definitely do,  but suffice it to say that public figures have a much more difficult time proving  a defamation case.


 Slander  is almost exactly like libel except that it covers those defamatory  statements that are spoken rather than written.