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What Are Some Examples of Libel?

What Are Some Examples of Libel?

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What Are Some Examples of Libel?

Nearly everyone has been the victim of harsh words and lies. So we know that inaccurate accusations can leave you feeling vulnerable and attacked. But what is the difference between a bad interaction with another person and a genuine case of libel?

If you’ve wondered whether false claims made against you constitute libel, this article is for you. We’ll define the term, answer all of your questions, and even provide some real-life libel examples. 

At Morgan & Morgan, we know just how powerful words can be. Arguably, the written word is even more powerful. And we want to ensure that you are not made a victim of lies and false information. 

If you ever need an attorney to help you defend your rights and restore your good name, give us a call. We will treat your case with the attention and respect it deserves.

What Is Libel?

Libel is any published content — including writings, drawings, or pictures — that is untrue and exposes a person to public ridicule or disgrace. In the age of social media, the opportunity for libel has increased tenfold. However, social media is not the only popular forum for the offense.

Unfortunately, one of the greatest sources of libel in the United States is the media. A quick Google search of active libel cases will show you that many libel claims are made against professional publications. 

Keep in mind that for a libel case to be successful, the information conveyed must be both written and untrue. 

If a person is accused of contracting an STD and that information turns out to be correct, the person in question does not have a valid libel case. However, he or she may be able to file a right to privacy lawsuit if the information was gained illegally.

The Two Types of Libel Law

Before we go further and cover some famous libel examples, let’s dive deeper into the definition of the term. There are two main types of libel: libel per se and libel per quod.

In Latin, “per se” means “on its face.” So libel per se refers to cases where the content outright defames another person’s reputation. 

The Latin definition of “per quod” is “undercover.” Thus, libel per quod refers to cases in which the content is left up to interpretation but still serves to defame a person’s reputation.

Essentially, libel per se cases are much easier to prove and litigate. Pursuing a successful libel per quod case is possible, but it can be more difficult. In both cases, it helps to hire an experienced attorney from our team at Morgan & Morgan. 

What Is Slander?

The terms “slander” and “libel” are often used interchangeably. The truth is that each term refers to an entirely different category of defamation law. While libel law applies to written untruths, slander law applies to verbal untruths. 

Essentially, slander happens when a person makes an untrue statement about another person, and that statement leads to quantifiable damages. Slander is most common in the workplace, where false statements can harm a person’s career. 

What Are the Legal Consequences of Libel and Slander?

Both slander and libel are defined as “torts.” This means that a person accused of slander may face a civil trial, but not a criminal one. Instead of jail time or a criminal record, a person accused of slander or libel faces a considerable sum for damages.

A successful libel case comes down to one important question: Can the victim prove that he or she experienced actual harm because of the libelous statements? Actual harm can be broken down into two separate categories: harm to a reputation and financial harm.

Harm to a Reputation

Although harm to a reputation sounds less damaging than financial harm, this is often not the case. Harm to a reputation has the potential to ruin a person’s career and personal life. 

For example, if you are a doctor and someone claims that your credentials are fabricated, you may quickly lose both your patients and your professional relationships.

Financial Harm

Financial harm goes hand in hand with harm to a reputation. If the false claims against you cause you to suffer from quantifiable financial losses, you should pursue compensation for those losses.

It’s also possible to sue for emotional and physical pain and suffering. If the stress of the claims made against you resulted in serious insomnia, depression, or worsening health, you could make a claim for those experiences as well. 

To prove that libel has occurred, it helps to have both witnesses and documentation that support your claim. Bring a copy of the publication to a Morgan & Morgan attorney to get the process started. 

Famous Libel Examples

Celebrities and public figures are often the victims of libel. However, it is harder for a public figure than a private person to win a libel suit. That’s because the courts have made a normative decision that public figures are less deserving of having their reputation protected. 

The justification for this is that a public figure generally decides to seek public attention and thus accepts a measure of risk for bad attention. Public figures also have a wider platform for refuting the libelous claims, while the general public does not. With that being said, here are some famous libel examples and their outcomes. 

J.K. Rowling vs. The Daily Mail

The first of our libel examples is J.K. Rowling vs. the Daily Mail. In this case, the bestselling author sued the Daily Mail for libelously claiming that her article for a U.K. charity had contained false statements. 

In the end, the Daily Mail released a statement acknowledging that the allegations were “completely false and indefensible.” The publication also issued an apology and agreed to pay a substantial settlement to close the case. Reportedly, Ms. Rowling donated a significant portion of the settlement to charity. 

Russell Brand vs. The Sun

Other libel examples include Russell Brand vs. the Sun. In November of 2013, the publication printed an article stating that the actor had cheated on his then-girlfriend, Jemima Khan. After his requests to withdraw the article were denied, Mr. Brand sued for libel damages, claiming that the accusations were untrue.

Ultimately, the actor won out. He received a substantial amount in libel damages and an apology from the publication.

Kate Winslet vs. The Daily Mail

Not all libel cases involve false accusations of cheating. In the case of Kate Winslet vs. the Daily Mail, the actress’s exercise regime was the topic in question. Ms. Winslet won her suit, in which she accused the Daily Mail of falsely claiming that she lied about her exercise routine. The reported payout? £25,000.

Rebel Wilson vs. Bauer Media

In September of 2017, Rebel Wilson won her lawsuit against Bauer Media and was awarded AUD $4.7 million. However, in June of the next year, that sum was dramatically reduced following an appeal.
Ultimately, Ms. Wilson came out on top after proving that Bauer Media had falsely accused her of lying about her age and childhood to make it in Hollywood. The actress claimed the libelous claims affected her ability to win new roles. 

What Should You Do If You Are a Victim of Libel?

Now that you are familiar with some libel examples involving public figures, you may wonder how a private person can make a case for libel. If you are a victim of published falsities, here is what we recommend you do next:

Consider Whether You Have a Case

First things first, you should take some time to reflect after the claims come to light. To build a successful case, it helps to begin in a calm frame of mind. 

When you’re ready, consider the facts of the situation. Does it seem as though you genuinely have a case? Remember that the statement must be provably false and cause you actual harm. 

Call an Attorney

If you do believe you have a potential case on your hands, contact the libel attorneys at Morgan & Morgan. We can schedule a free consultation to discuss the situation further. To start, we will request that the publisher of the false statement remove the libelous content and issue an apology. If that does not happen, we can pursue a civil case.

Hire a Reputation Manager

If the libelous claims are greatly affecting your personal and professional lives, it may be time to start combatting the bad press. A reputation manager can help you publish positive articles that will rebuild your reputation. 

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  • Is There a Statute of Limitations for Libel?

    Most states have a statute of limitations for libel cases. This window of time generally ranges between one and three years. If you believe that you are a victim of libel, we recommend that you hire an attorney right away to ensure you reach any relevant deadlines.

  • Do Opinions Qualify as Libel?

    Remember that in the United States, all people have a right to express themselves and their opinions. Essentially, this means that opinions cannot be legally defamatory. However, if the content in question purports that the false statements are actually fact, then you may have a libel case.

  • How Much Money Do I Need to Hire an Attorney?

    At Morgan & Morgan, you do not need to pay any money upfront for legal services. Instead, your fee will be pre-agreed upon and dependent on whether we win your case. That’s why we always say the “fee is free” at Morgan & Morgan.

  • Choose Morgan & Morgan When You Need a Lawyer

    If it’s time to address the defamatory statements that have been made against you, contact one of the attorneys at Morgan & Morgan. We will dive into the details of your case and help you pursue compensation if necessary. To schedule a free case evaluation, simply fill out our convenient online form.

    Remember, the sooner you contact us, the sooner we can get started. And the sooner you can put this unfortunate experience behind you.

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Last updated on May 31, 2023

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