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How Much Does a Defamation Lawsuit Cost?

Proverbs 22:1 states, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” A quality reputation is hard to build, yet it can be quickly tarnished. In today’s callused social media culture, a good name is defamed almost instantaneously and can feel debilitating to the person involved.  

The Raging Patriot is here to shed some light on the topic of defamation. We’ll uncover what defamation is, how someone can sue for defamation, how much a defamation lawsuit costs, some fundamental factors affecting the total cost, and what are potential payouts (if any). 

We’ll highlight some recent defamation cases and explain in detail why a reputation is imperative to reclaim. 

What is a Defamation Lawsuit?

When one’s name or reputation is slandered or injured, it is known as defamation. We can classify defamation claims into two types, libel and slander. Libel is written defamation, while slander is a verbal defamatory statement. 

For law purposes, both types fall under a Personal Injury claim. Lawyers will defend the plaintiffs only if they can prove these four things against the Defendant:

  • The Defendant made a false statement about the Plaintiff
  • The statement was made to a third party (someone other than the Plaintiff)
  • The statement harmed the Plaintiff’s reputation
  • The Defendant was negligent about whether the statement was true or false

If defamation is proven based on the above criteria, one should consider legal action. A private citizen generally has more rights than a public figure. Since celebrities and politicians are in the limelight, reason states they are more open to criticism than the average joe. 

Celebrity defamation lawsuits need to prove not only the defamed criteria but also that it occurred intending to harm or malice. Celebrity or not, the criteria and damages involved in determining how to sue in a defamation case vary greatly. 

What Are the Types of Damages in Defamation Cases?

Damage categories fall under one or more of these five varieties:

  • Presumed damages
  • Special damages
  • General mental anguish damages
  • Compensatory/Nominal damages
  • Punitive damages

Both libel and slander cases accumulate mental distress and a damaged reputation. These fall under the category of General damages. Compensatory damages include lost wages or medical bills. With proper documentation, one can uphold most compensatory damages. 

Punitive damages for lawyer fees often require proof of malicious intent. This reckless regard for the truth is rarely written and is thus very hard to prove. It requires research and frequently extends the time involved in the case. Additional fees accumulate, which reduces the potential reward in the end. 

Online defamatory statements occur frequently, and it’s increasingly difficult to pinpoint where something truly originated. False accusations can go viral instantly and require significant work to repeal. Just ask Nick Sandmann!

In 2019, several major news outlets wrongfully accused Catholic Covington High School student Nick Sandmann of inciting a racial hatred riot against an elderly Native American man and other students of color outside the Lincoln Memorial. 

Nick and his “MAGA-hatted” friends committed “hate crimes” according to most major news outlets, including CNN. Actual footage revealed Nick’s innocence, and most of the mainstream media corrected their stories. NBC and MSNBC were some holdouts refusing to deny any wrongdoing, even though evidence proved otherwise. 

Nick had ample reason to sue for defamation across all damage types. Though it took work to reinstate his top-notch reputation, the news media corrected the false story. CNN, NBC, and The Washington Post all settled their claims. 

In the debaucherous case of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, a hefty load of dirty laundry needed digging up to prove Depp’s innocence. Depp won $5 million in punitive damages. 

What Factors Are Involved in a Defamation Lawsuit Cost?

The fees lawyers charge can seem endless. Since each defamation case is unique, many factors contribute to the total cost. Before seeking guidance from a law firm, first dissect the following:

  • Is the Defendant’s identity known or unknown?
  • Is monetary compensation or restored reputation the goal? Or both?
  • Is the defamed content in writing online? Or spoken? 
  • Is a court order needed to research said content?
  • Is the Defendant contesting the case?
  • Is it a time of the essence?

For Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder trial, time was of the essence. Mark Zuckerberg’s META (formerly FaceBook) published slanderous content about Kyle instantaneously. META pushed derogatory comments about Rittenhouse stating he was a “mass murderer,” and censored anything that might prove his innocence. Facts later showed Kyle acted in self-defense. 

Kyle’s defamation cases are currently in progress, but one can tell that all of the above is true. Costs will be hefty, but the payouts and restoration of his character are pertinent to his well-being and will be worth it, no matter the payout. 

What is a Typical Payout? 

Winning a defamation lawsuit poses a challenge, and payouts are equally dicey. They can range from as little as $1 up to millions. Typically the severity of the damages determines the amount of the award.

In a standout case, gun maker Remington had to pay the victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting a whopping $73 million. There have been several high-profile celebrity defamation cases throughout the years, with each payout as unique as the case itself. 

What Are Anti-SLAPP Laws and Why Do They Matter? 

A Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit designed to intimidate and silence the opposition. Thus, Anti-SLAPP laws go towards protecting one’s First Amendment right to free speech. 

News outlets frequently use Anti-SLAPP laws to protect themselves against baseless or invalidated claims. The average person can use such laws to state their truth to the public, provided it is one’s own opinion. 

Some examples are negative Yelp reviews based on poor experiences or local tabloids publishing the past criminal history of a political candidate. Most politicians can’t sue for defamation due to these Anti-SLAPP laws since it is opinion-based. 

Is A Defamation Lawsuit Cost Worth It? 

Benjamin Franklin once said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” The Raging Patriot knows the cost of a reputation is priceless and is worth saving. 

There are many facets to consider in filing a defamation case. Even after following the guidelines highlighted above, there is always a 50/50 chance of winning. 

Each person must analyze what’s at stake, find supporting evidence, seek out proper legal counsel, and determine the cost-benefit analysis for their case. After considering how much a defamation lawsuit costs, it may be worth it in the end. 

Stay tuned to The Raging Patriot for more news and updates on defamation cases as they unfold! 

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