In the advanced computer age in which we live, the first place people go to share an event in their lives (whether good or bad) is the internet. Whether it’s an email, a blog, a tweet, or a social network update, people are typically looking for a sympathetic ear or more commonly an alliance of similarly situated individuals.
When it comes to qualified private communities, it has become very common to discover blogs written by disgruntled homeowners seeking to rally his/her neighbors together to cast negativity against a community, including their boards. Although it is difficult to read antagonistic commentary about oneself or one’s community, under most circumstances, it is not likely that there is much you can do about it.
Defamation is a word that comes to mind when this issue arises because it is a common term used in this context. Libel is written defamation and slander is spoken defamation. To present a successful case for defamation, a complaint must include four vital elements: (1) a false statement of fact; (2) regarding the complainant; (3) which is published to a third party; and (4) resulted in injury to the party.
The most significant element in a defamation case is “actual damages”. There are some exceptions to this rule, but typically, without a showing of actual harm such as monetary loss, physical damages or demonstrated harm to reputation, the case will likely be unsuccessful.
Additionally, even if a case involves a showing of these four elements, it may not be successful if it can be defeated by one of the many defenses to defamation. For example, one’s opinion does not give rise to defamation. Other defenses to defamation are mere vulgar abuse, the author’s or speaker’s belief in the truth of the statement and statute of limitations which imposes a time limit of one year to bring a defamation case from the date of the utterance or publication. Defenses to defamation must be considered in the context of the actual statement made when analyzing a potential defamation action.