Privileged Speech is not Defamatory Speech, but Privilege Can Be Easily Lost

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Some callers to my office, wanting to sue for defamation because someone said terrible, false and hurtful things about them, are disappointed to learn that they cannot seek legal action because the speech falls under a privilege. By definition, “privileged” speech can never be defamatory, and therefore cannot support a defamation action.

Examples? Speaking at a City Council meeting, testifying in court, or filing a police report – all privileged speech. So, if someone trashes you from the witness stand in court, there is nothing you can do about it from a defamation standpoint. (Although the person could be criminally liable for perjury.)

“BUT,” I tell the caller, “if the person steps out of court and makes the same statements, you have them.” That is exactly what took place in the facts of this case.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Aaron Morris, Morris & Stone, LLP | Attorney Advertising

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