Defamation is a false statement that someone makes about you that damages your reputation. Protections of free speech under the First Amendment do not apply to defamatory statements.
There are two different types of defamation: libel and slander. Libel refers to written false statements while slander refers to spoken statements. In either case, to prove a claim of defamation and recover damages, there are certain criteria you have to meet.
1. Financial injury
You have to prove that someone else’s defamatory statements about you hurt you in a concrete, measurable way. Specifically, you have to be able to show that you lost money as a result of the defamatory statement and calculate how much.
According to G2.com, if someone makes a defamatory statement about you and you are the only one to see or hear it, it does not cause you any financial harm, though it may hurt your feelings. It must have undergone publication in such a way that other people would have seen or heard it and that it influenced their opinion of you.
3. Objectively untrue
You can only bring a defamation claim against a statement that is demonstrably and factually false. A negative opinion of you or your company may be damaging to your reputation, but it is not defamation because you cannot present facts to the contrary to prove it false. Similarly, you cannot win a defamation case if the damaging statement turns out to be factually accurate and provable.
In addition to these criteria, the court also takes your position and status into consideration when rendering a decision on a claim of defamation. For example, it is harder for a public figure to prove a claim of defamation than a private citizen because of the public’s right to stay informed on current events.