New York City Personal Injury Law Blog
Filing a Lawsuit For Defamation
Posted on Mar 28, 2018 in Uncategorized
Statistics show that the average number of federal court tort cases each year is 512,000. Around 2% of tort cases went to trial, and 48% of cases were won by the plaintiff. 84% of plaintiffs who succeeded in their cases received monetary damages. 54% of civil suit cases were won in bench trials while 46% were won in jury trials.
The annual cost to the economy in the United States for civil lawsuits is $239,000,000,000. The estimated annual cost to every citizen of the country for civil suits is $812, and the average compensation payout for personal injury lawsuits is $60,000.
When is Defamation Considered a Personal Injury?
Also referred to as slander, defamation is the use of statements or words that have a negative impact on another person’s reputation. In general, an individual may be able to recover damages as a result of slander and defamation. In order for the plaintiff to collect, it must be, in some cases, that the statement of slander is actually untrue.
However, all cases do not require proof that a slanderous statement is untrue. Defamation is a general term, while in most cases, slander refers to spoken statements. In order to consider such statements slander or defamation, they must be made available to an individual or people other than the plaintiff. This means that the statements must be published for a large group of people or the general public.
According to common law in the United States, because they cause damage to the character of an individual, slander and defamation are considered to be a part of personal injury law.
A victim of defamation incite action against the guilty party in court. Proving defamation in a personal injury is considered to be difficult due to the fact that a large number of actions are protected under the freedom of speech amendment of the Constitution.
To receive any compensation, the plaintiff is required to prove that his or her character was actually damaged, or experienced pain and suffering, as a result of the defamation. Defendants have several specific remedies available to them when they are able to prove defamation. This may include a re-publication of a truthful statement and a retraction of the statement.
A plaintiff in a defamation personal injury lawsuit should be aware that there are a number of defenses that a defendant can use as a way of escaping liability. For one, claiming that the offending statement was actually true may excuse them from liability for damages. Additionally, they can pose an argument that the statement in question was of valuable knowledge to the group of people who read or heard the statement or the general public.
Generally, any statement of defamation made in legal testimony will not be considered actionable. A defendant who acts under the legal process is, in most cases, allowed to speak freely.
It is very challenging for a plaintiff to claim defamation of character because an individual stating opinion has the right and freedom to do so. A personal injury attorney can provide assistance to a plaintiff in determining whether or not they have enough evidence to bring about a lawsuit for defamation of character.
Tentative $2.5 Million Agreement in Defamation Suit Against Vallejo City
A tentative agreement was reached between the city of Vallejo and a couple involved in a kidnapping in 2015 that the city’s police department initially dismissed as a hoax.
Denise Huskins and her fiance, Aaron Quinn were expected to receive $2.5 million as a settlement for the federal defamation case that they filed in 2016 against the Vallejo Police Department, Detective Mathew Mustard, and Lieutenant Kenny Park.
39-year-old Matthew Muller admitted that in March 2015, he kidnapped Huskin’s from Quinn’s home in Mare Island. He was eventually sentenced to 40 years in federal prison.
A disbarred immigration lawyer from San Francisco, Muller broke into the home and tied up Huskins and Quinn, and eventually abducted Quinn. After sexually assaulting her, he later released her near her parents’ Huntington Beach home.
Vallejo police doubted Huskin and Quinn’s account of events at the time, and called the entire incident an “orchestrated event.”
Huskins and Quinn filed a lawsuit against the city, Mustard and Park, alleging that they both suffered physical and emotional distress, hardships, and humiliation due to the department’s investigation. The complaint specifically alleged that the defendants named in the suit defamed the couple in public and caused Huskins an intentional infliction of emotional distress.
In a statement, the couple said that what happened to them should not happen to any person, and that protection should be provided to victims in their time of need, not humiliated in a public stage. They added that they hoped that their settlement would inspire others like them to speak up and keep fighting.
The defamation case that the couple instigated had been postponed from August 2017 after the city’s motion to strike two items from the lawsuit was denied by US District Judge Troy L. Nunley. The two items were: The defendants defamed the couple in public and caused Huskin’s an intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Regarding the accusation of defamation, the city argued that the claim was a SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) suit, which is a civil complaint in which the person alleges that they were injured due to free speech activities that the First Amendment protects. They also claimed that the city, Mustard and Park, both exercised their rights of free speech, and also that public authorities’ speech during any investigation is protected by state code.
Judge Nunley disagreed and argued that as public authorities, the city, Mustard and Park were not immune from the liability from the claims of Huskins and Quinn. Judge Nunley said that it is stated in current precedent that immunity is given out only against malicious prosecution claims and that the couple’s lawsuit made no such claim. He also did not agree with the city that Huskins and Quinn were in fact public figures.
Judge Nunley wrote that in this case, the voluntary act of the plaintiff or victim was limited to reporting the crime to authorities. No individual can become a public figure merely by seeking relief or assistance through the legal system.
The city had filed an appeal against the decision made by Judge Nunley to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Other terms in the tentative agreement were not released.
Steps in a Defamation Lawsuit
The first thing to do when you think that you may have a defamation case is to consult a personal injury attorney with experience in defamation and slander cases. You must be as thorough as possible in your first meeting with your lawyer.
If it is a written one, you should bring a copy of the statement. If it was made online, you should bring a printout of the page and if there are any, the comments that follow. It is also an astute idea to give your lawyer a list of people who may have information that would make them helpful witnesses in your case. If you have it, provide their contact information.
Additionally, if you are seeking monetary reimbursement, it is important that you bring documentation, such as a bank or accounting statements that show that you have lost money as a result of the defamatory statement. If you have been terminated from a job because of defamation, make sure that you bring a copy of your personnel file to your meeting with your attorney.
It is vital that you bring any document, etc. that might be relevant to your lawyer. They can let you know if any material you bring is not necessary, but being over-prepared is better than not being prepared enough.
Finally, it is important to be as honest as you can with your legal pro. You must be able to trust your legal counselor and vice versa. You must provide them with all of the relevant facts, even those that you think might be detrimental to your case.
Bear in mind that those types of information will eventually be brought out anyway, and it is best that your attorney knows about it upfront and determines how to handle it rather than being caught off-guard with it at a later stage. Most importantly, your attorney needs to have the ability to give you the best possible advice, and they need to have as much information as possible in order to do that.
The finest law firm in the business in The Big Apple is RMFW. We know this business very well. We know this legal realm because we work in it all the time. If someone has defamed you call us up, let’s hear your side of the story. If you have a viable case we will target the culprit and work hard on your behalf.
We cannot guarantee anything but we will guarantee we will do our best. You pay us nothing up front. We only win if you win.
File the Complaint
Once you have met with your attorney and they have conducted an initial investigation, they will file a complaint, the document that initiates the lawsuit. However, you should keep in mind that this type of lawsuit moves at a much slower pace that most people would like. Filing a lawsuit does not mean that everything will be done in a matter of a few months.
If it is not settled, it sometimes takes a year or more for a case to go to court. Settlement negotiations can also be ongoing for the case’s life.
Service and Discovery
After you file a lawsuit, the defendant has to be served and given a brief window of time in which to submit a written response. A scheduling order is then issued by the court – this is when all the important deadlines in a case are given. It is at this point that the “discovery” process begins. Discovery is the formal investigation that both sides undertake.
Through attorneys, each party will send each other interrogatories which are written questions. The questions are answered under oath, and help each party find out more about each other, the facts of their case and their potential witnesses.
Bear in mind that you may be asked to submit documents and proof that validate your claims by the other party. The attorney you hire will work hand in hand with you in gathering all the necessary documents as well as answering questions. Sometimes you decline to answer certain questions or withhold certain documents that can be detrimental to your case. These tips will be given by your attorney.
The next process is likely the deposition. This is nothing but a formal interview under oath during which the attorney of the other party, will cross question you. This is the perfect opportunity for the other party to size you up or gauge your stand and determine how a jury might perceive you, what type of witness you might be in a trial, and how strong your claims really are.
The attorney or law firm you select will make sure that you are prepared for the deposition and no one does this better than RMFW Law. In most cases, the opposing parties are deposed, but there may be other witnesses questioned as well, such as relatives, friends, and other people who know about your case.
It is after the discovery process is over that most negotiations for a settlement begin, especially if the other party is not keen on going to trial.
Throughout the case, attorneys think about the settlement, but the discovery process provides most attorneys with the information they need to assess the outcome of the case, i.e., if it proceeds through trial. Armed with this information, your attorney can advise you about the settlement. It is ultimately up to you to decide if you should settle your case out of court or go to trial.
However, you need to consider the advice your attorney gives you as they have the knowledge and experience to determine how strong or weak your case is. It is critical that you think carefully about settling especially in a defamation case where it can be extremely difficult to establish quantifiable damages.
Acquire Legal Assistance for a Defamation Lawsuit
If you or a loved one has suffered because someone has defamed you, you should immediately seek the help of a profound personal injury attorney and there is no one better in this game than Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff, & Wolff, of RMFW Law at 212 697 9280. To learn more about the law and your rights, and what action you can take against the at-fault party, call us today!
Based on the specifics of your situation and the law in your jurisdiction, RMFW Law will determine the strength of your case and help you with the best course of action. You can file a defamation lawsuit and recover compensation for damages caused by the defamation.
Call us now! We know what a winning case looks like.