Colorado Defamation Defined
Defamation is the written or spoken communication of a false assertion of fact to a third party that causes harm to another’s reputation. Defamation is a civil matter and is comprised of libel and slander. Libel is communicated in writing and slander is spoken. If the defamation is oriented towards a business, it can also fall under business or commercial disparagement.
To be actionable in Colorado, the statement must be:
- Made with negligence or a reckless disregard for the truth
- Cause harm
The Statute of Limitations, i.e., the time within a suit must be brought, is one year in Colorado after the statement was made or the Plaintiff became aware of it. This is a short timeframe so fast action is necessary to respond to defamatory postings. An action for trade libel, however, is subject to a two year statute of limitations.Common Defenses
Truth is a defense to defamation. In Colorado substantial truth is required. If the bulk of the statement is true, then truth can be a valid defense. In Muhaisen v. Doe, heard by the U.S. District Court of Colorado, YouTube videos accusing an attorney of criminal conduct were defamatory and warranted a preliminary injunction for their removal. If a statement can be proven true or false, then it is subject to the defense or truth. Opinion is another common defense. If a statement can not be proven true or false, then it is a statement of opinion.Pleadings
A defamation case is initiated by the filing of a Complaint which identifies the defamatory actions. The Defendant can file an Answer raising any affirmative defenses. The Plaintiff can file a reply addressing any newly raised issued of fact, argument or claims. The Defendant can then file a Counterclaim. Defamation claims must be specific by identifying the exact defamatory words. With defamation per se, a Plaintiff does not need to prove damages.Types of Defamation
Defamation can be “per se” or “per quod”. Defamation per se is related to statements defamatory in their face such as accusations of the commissions of crime or acting unethically within one’s profession. It does not require proof of damages. Defamation per quod does require proof of damages. These are statements that fall outside of the per se definition and do not carry a defamatory meaning on their face.Damages
There are different types of damages that can arise from defamation:
- Actual or compensatory
Presumed damages are associated with defamation per se. For actual damages with defamation per quod a Plaintiff must prove harm. Such types of harm may be:
- Mental anguish
- Harm to reputation
Such damages could be:
Punitive damages are based on based on reckless behavior without regard to the rights of others and related to:
- Willful and Wanton Conduct
A knowledgeable and experienced attorney from a defamation law firm can guide you through Colorado defamation matters by negotiating, mediating and litigating. This allows you to focus on to a better future. Defamation matters are difficult to navigate alone.
Sabra Janko from Janko Family Law Solutions is a knowledgeable and experienced attorney who protects your best interests and ensures that you are aware of your legal rights and obligations. Contact us at 719-344-5523 for a free 30-minute informational consultation or complete our online form.