Defamation (Libel & Slander)

A claim for defamation (including both libel and slander) generally requires showing that a person made a false and defamatory statement about another person; that the statement was made without privilege; that the person’s fault in making the statement amounted to at least negligence; and that the statement caused special harm or is actionable regardless of whether it caused special harm.

A statement is generally considered defamatory if it tends to injure the victim in his trade, profession, or community standing. A statement is privileged if it is the sort of statement that the law deems protected speech (such as under common law or constitutional principles). A statement may be deemed actionable regardless of whether it caused special harm if, for example, the statement accused the victim of having committed a serious crime.

A defamation claim generally must be brought within one year of the date on which the claim accrues.

For information about other civil claims recognized in the District of Columbia, click here. For information about how to use this guide, click here.

[Sources: Douglas C. Melcher, Tort Claims and Defenses in the District of Columbia § 16 (2014), and legal authorities cited therein.]