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The term defamation describes false statements or actions that injure the reputation of a third party. As a tort (an action by one party that harms another party), defamation includes the offenses of libel (defamation in written or publication form) and slander (defamation in oral or temporary form). 

When a person is the victim of any form of defamation, the possible consequences of a false statement can have a dramatic impact on his or her employment and personal life. Defamation victims in Pennsylvania only have a very limited amount of time—one year—to file legal actions against the offending parties.

Lawyer for Defamation Claims in West Chester, PA

If you have suffered any kind of injury to your reputation because of the harmful and misleading statements of a third party, it is in your best interest to quickly retain legal counsel. Ciccarelli Law Offices has office locations in Radnor, Springfield, Kennett Square, King of Prussia, Lancaster, Philadelphia, Malvern, and Plymouth Square. 

Our West Chester personal injury attorneys represent clients on a contingency fee basis, so you will not pay our firm anything unless you receive a monetary award. Call (610) 719-3190 right now to have our lawyers review your case and answer all of your legal questions during a free, no obligation consultation.

Chester County Defamation Information Center

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Pennsylvania Defamation Laws

Title 42 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute § 8343 establishes respective burdens of proof for plaintiffs and defendants in defamation actions. Under Title 42 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute § 8343(a), the plaintiff has the burden of proving, when the issue is properly raised: 

  • The defamatory character of the communication. 
  • Its publication by the defendant. 
  • Its application to the plaintiff. 
  • The understanding by the recipient of its defamatory meaning. 
  • The understanding by the recipient of it as intended to be applied to the plaintiff. 
  • Special harm resulting to the plaintiff from its publication. 
  • Abuse of a conditionally privileged occasion. 

Title 42 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute § 8343(b) states that a defendant has the burden of proving, when the issue is properly raised: 

  • The truth of the defamatory communication. 
  • The privileged character of the occasion on which it was published. 
  • The character of the subject matter of defamatory comment as of public concern. 

Under Title 42 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute § 8342, a plea of justification can be accepted as an adequate and complete defense in any libel action when it is pleaded and proved to the satisfaction of the jury that the publication was substantially true and was proper for public information or investigation, and was not maliciously or negligently made. Title 42 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute § 8344 establishes that damages cannot be awarded in a libel action unless the publication was maliciously or negligently made.

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Public Figures in West Chester Defamation Claims

The standard or proof that is required for any defamation claim is often influenced by how well-known the plaintiff is. A private figure is only required to prove that a defendant acted negligently, but a public figures must prove that the defendant acted with actual malice. 

Title 65 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute § 1102 provides the following definitions relating to public figures: 

  • Public employee — Any individual employed by the Commonwealth or a political subdivision who is responsible for taking or recommending official action of a nonministerial nature with regard to contracting or procurement; administering or monitoring grants or subsidies; planning or zoning; inspecting, licensing, regulating or auditing any person; or any other activity where the official action has an economic impact of greater than a de minimis nature on the interests of any person.
  • Public official — Any person elected by the public or elected or appointed by a governmental body or an appointed official in the executive, legislative or judicial branch of this Commonwealth or any political subdivision thereof, provided that it shall not include members of advisory boards that have no authority to expend public funds other than reimbursement for personal expense or to otherwise exercise the power of the State or any political subdivision thereof.

Public figures are further divided into two classes: All-purpose public figures and limited-purpose public figures. An all-purpose public figure is a person whose fame or notoriety is so expansive that he or she can safely be deemed a public figure for all purposes and in all contexts. A limited-purpose public figure is a person who is not as universally well-known but has either voluntarily become a key figure in a particular controversy or gained some prominence in a particular field.

The actual malice standard extends to statements touching on virtually any aspect of a public official or all-purpose public figure's life, regardless of the passage of time—or in the case of a public official, even after leaving office. For limited-purpose public figure, the actual malice standard only extends to the particular controversy or field which has made the individual more relevant.

In its landmark decision in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964), the United States Supreme Court wrote that a statement is made with actual malice when it is made "with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not."

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Pennsylvania Defamation Resources

Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Coalition (PaFOIC) — The PaFOIC works to ensure that all people have full access to Pennsylvania state and local government records and proceedings. Use the Open Records section of this website to learn more about Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law. You can also find information about open meetings under Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act. 

Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association (PNA) — PNA's mission is "to advance the business interests of Pennsylvania news media organizations and to promote a free and independent press." The PNA also consists of the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association Foundation (PNA FDN)—an independent, nonprofit corporation organized as a public foundation—and Mid-Atlantic Newspaper Services, Inc. (MANSI Media)—a wholly-owned, for-profit subsidiary of the PNA. Use this website to access recent news, PNA press releases, and legal topics.

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Find a Defamation Attorney in West Chester, PA

Has your reputation been irreparably harmed by another party’s false statement? You may have grounds to seek compensation through a defamation claim. Contact Ciccarelli Law Offices as soon as possible. 

Our experienced personal injury lawyers in West Chester represent individuals in communities all over Lancaster County, Montgomery County, Chester County, Delaware County, and the greater Philadelphia area. You can have our attorneys provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case when you call (610) 719-3190 or complete an online contact form to set up a free initial consultation.

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