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How do I Sue for Libel?

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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 14 September 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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In order to sue for libel, you must first determine whether all the elements of libel have been met. Once you have determined that, the next step is to contact an attorney, who can further explore the elements, and then allow you the opportunity to explain your case. After that has taken place, the attorney can file the necessary paperwork with the clerk of court's office in your jurisdiction to get the case on the docket, and begin collection of evidence.

A number of the elements of libel are self explanatory. The first thing you must prove in order to sue for libel is that false and damaging information was publicized, and determine who is responsible for its publication. At one time, this was relatively straightforward. With the advent of the Internet, it is not as simple. For example, for a publication on the Internet, the publisher may be the writer of the piece, the owner of the website where the material is located, the Internet service provider, or all of these entities.

The next step is to determine that the false statement was meant to defame you, and to prove how you were injured by the false report. This could include actual monetary damages resulting from a lost job, for example. It may also be possible to sue for libel and collect damages for mental anguish, which could be a highly subjective penalty that is left up to a judge or jury to determine.

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Once that is determined, next you must prove that it was the fault of the publisher, or someone working for that person, that led to defamatory publication. To successfully sue for libel, you do not need to necessarily prove the act was malevolent, especially if you are a private individual with no claim to fame. All you need to prove is that there was false information; this could have been the result of negligence, rather than an intentional act.

If you feel you have a case, and continue to wish to pursue the matter, contact an attorney licensed to practice in your specific jurisdiction. Attorneys can sue for libel on behalf of a client and make sure all the legal requirements are in place. It is possible to sue for libel, or anything else, without the services of an attorney, but is usually not recommended.

Once the suit has been filed, both sides will go through a process of discovery in which the published piece will be carefully examined. Both sides may request depositions or written interrogatories in order to build the foundation of a case. Common defenses to libel include claiming the report was the truth, that it was a fair report in an official proceeding, or that the work was intended only to express an opinion.

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