HOUSTON, TX / ACCESSWIRE / February 21, 2023 / Houston, Texas Attorney Paul Sternberg has spent decades helping local clients overcome their legal battles. His specialty is helping those threatened or harmed by online defamation attacks.
Sternberg explains that written defamation, also known as “libel”, has become common online in the last decade or so. However, under Texas law, this act may be grounds for legal recourse. Sternberg, author of Internet Defamation and Website Removal, goes on to explain more about defamation, as well as when legal action may be called for with certain defamatory statements.
Defamation is defined as a “statement that injures a third party’s reputation”. Sternberg notes that for a successful defamation claim, the plaintiff must show proof of the following: (1) the defendant published a false statement; (2) that defamed the plaintiff; (3) with the requisite degree of fault regarding the statement’s truth; and (4) damages, unless the statement constitutes defamation per se.
Examples of defamatory statements might accuse someone of a crime or otherwise injure a person in his/her office, profession, or occupation. Sternberg goes on to further dissect the four components of written defamation and also explains the statute of limitations as it pertains to defamation cases.
1.) The Defendant Published a False Statement
Mr. Sternberg says it’s important to note that not all false statements made online are grounds for legal recourse because subjective opinions don’t necessarily represent a statement of fact. He says that, in order to support a claim for defamation, the plaintiff must show that a false statement was published to a third party capable of understanding its defamatory meaning.
2.) The False Statement Defamed the Plaintiff
Furthermore, Sternberg says the plaintiff must also show that the false statement defamed him/her in some manner. Texas law says a written statement is deemed defamatory if “a person of ordinary intelligence would interpret it in a way that tends to injure the subject’s reputation and thereby expose the subject to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule, or financial injury, or to impeach the subject’s honesty, integrity, virtue, or reputation.”
Sternberg stresses that statements that are merely “unflattering, abusive, annoying, irksome, or embarrassing or that only hurt a person’s feelings,” are not necessarily grounds for legal action.
3.) The Requisite Degree of Fault
For a successful defamation case, the plaintiff must also prove a certain degree of fault in regards to the published statement. However, the degree of fault will depend on whether the plaintiff is a public figure or private individual. Public figures must show that the defendant acted with malice or knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not. In other words, there must be significant doubt about the truth of the statements at the time they were made.
Sternberg notes that the standard is lower if the plaintiff is a private individual. In this instance, the plaintiff must only show negligence-that the defendant knew or should have known that the defamatory statement was false.
Finally, for a successful defamation case, Sternberg says the plaintiff must also show that damages were incurred. If the statement in question is deemed defamatory, the plaintiff may be awarded nominal damages due to mental anguish and loss of reputation alone. However, if the false statement is not considered defamatory, the plaintiff must show actual damages for loss of reputation, mental anguish, or economic loss.
Statute of Limitations
Attorney Sternberg notes that a one-year statute of limitations, beginning when the defamatory statement is published, applies to all defamation cases. However, an exception may be made if the defamatory statement is “inherently undiscoverable” or not a matter of public knowledge. If this is the case, the limitation period begins when the plaintiff learns of the existence of the defamatory statement.
Paul M. Sternberg owns a private practice law firm in Houston, Texas. He concentrates his practice in the areas of internet defamation law as well as business law. Mr. Sternberg is a graduate from the A.B.Freeman School of Business at Tulane University in 1987, and a 1996 graduate from South Texas College of Law in Houston. Mr. Sternberg, a seasoned entrepreneur, is the author of THE GUIDE TO INTERNET DEFAMATION AND WEBSITE REMOVAL and THE GUIDE TO INVESTING IN COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE. He has 10 years of experience on representing clients who have been the victims of defamatory cyber-attacks. Mr. Sternberg has developed a reliable blueprint in securing positive solutions in most cases. He has shared his professional knowledge with FOX NEWS and many other media outlets to discuss internet defamation. He is a frequent speaker to attorneys and community groups. He may be reached at www.TheDefamationAttorney.com or his office at 713-789-8120.
THIS ARTICLE SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON AS LEGAL ADVICE
Attorney Paul Sternberg, of Houston, Texas, states and declares that the above text is not offered as legal advice, but is provided as general information. The information contained within may not be suitable for all individuals or situations. No attorney-client relationship is created or implied by the provision of this information, nor does the aforementioned make any warranties, whether expressed or implied, of any kind. To discuss a particular situation in more detail, please contact attorney Paul Sternberg for a consultation by calling 713-392-4322.
SOURCE: Sternberg Law Firm