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Heather Jones

With the continued popularity of social media websites and apps, many people have started posting whatever they like without considering there could be repercussions. There has been a surge of litigation related to allegedly defamatory statements on the internet. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and the Constitution guarantees free speech, but you should post with caution because there can be times when statements become defamatory. This article answers five questions about Wisconsin’s Defamation of Character and gives a simple overview of some of the issues to be considered.  


1-What Is Defamation?


In Wisconsin and many other states, defamation can be broken into two categories, libel, and slander. Libel is when defamation is printed or circulated via electronic means. Slander is when defamation is spoken to someone other than the person being defamed.  


A simple example of libel would be a news website posting a written story where they claim an individual was convicted of tax evasion, even though it is untrue.  


A simple example of slander would be someone claiming that a specific bartender intentionally made them a tainted cocktail last Friday. They became very ill because of it, even though the speaker knows it to be untrue.  


2-Can I Sue For Defamation In Wisconsin?


Defamation is a crime in Wisconsin, and you can sue for defamation in Wisconsin. It could be worth suing for defamation if defamation has substantially and negatively impacted your personal or professional life. You have up to three years after the defamation occurs to file a lawsuit for civil defamation in Wisconsin. If you do not file within three years, you will not be able to.  


3-What Am I Required to Prove to Show Defamation in Wisconsin?


Three elements must be satisfied or, in other words, proved to prevail on a civil defamation case in Wisconsin:  


  • The written or spoken statement is false.  
  • The written or spoken statement is communicated by speech, implied by conduct when viewed in light of the circumstances, or by writing to a person other than the person defamed.  
  • The written or spoken statement is defamatory, and it is not privileged.  

4-What Is A Defense Against Defamation?  


  • That is substantially true. If there is evidence showing that the statement is true, then there was no defamation, and the statement being true is considered a complete defense.  
  • That it wasn’t just an opinion; if a person just states their opinion instead of attempting to make it look like it is a factual statement, there is no defamation.  
  • The person claiming defamation gave their consent to have the statement made or circulated in print.  


5-Do I Need a Lawyer for a Wisconsin Defamation Case?


You are not required to have an attorney to file or defend against a lawsuit. Still, it is highly recommended that you always consult with an attorney about your rights and potential claims or defenses regarding any lawsuit. Defamation is not a simple claim, and if you are considering filing a lawsuit or have been accused of defamation, there could be a great deal at stake.  


Any defamation claim also includes a request for damages, which in civil defamation means the person who filed a defamation lawsuit against you will be asking the court to grant them a monetary award if they win. The monetary damages could be considerable, depending on the severity of the case. A Wisconsin attorney with experience in defamation law would be able to advise you properly.  

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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