Damages in Defamation Cases


The way by which the extent of harm (caused by the defendant to the plaintiff) is measured in financial terms in a court of law, is called Damages. As opposed to lawsuit costs, damages are a form of compensation paid to the plaintiff by the defendant. They depend solely on the verdict of the court of law. Damages are payable only if the defendant loses the case.

In this article you will learn more about the Types of Recoverable Damages in the Case of Defamation. But first, let’s take a look at the meaning of defamation and some of its types.

What constitutes Defamation?

Defamation is a legal term used to refer to any form of statement or communication that makes a factual claim against a group, product, business, nation, individual, nation or religion that negatively affects its image and reputation. It is also referred to as vilification, calumny, libel (broadcast, written or published statements) and slander (statements that are transitory).

  • Business Defamation

It is a common phenomenon among business competitors. It can occur in different forms across various media. As an example, Company A has an advertisement that is defamatory and false, and is suggestive of Company B’s business. Then there are a host of statements spread through the internet in the form of chain mails and messages that intentionally hurt a business’s reputation. All of this comprises business defamation.

  • Personal Defamation

Commonly known as defamation of character, this type of defamation implies accusations of libel, slander or both. The term ‘slander’ literally means derogatory remarks of verbal nature. ‘Libel’ refers to derogatory written statements. The plaintiff charges defamation of character when the defamation is personal, that is, negatively portrays an individual. Damaging or false allegations made by the defendant on an individual are covered by this charge.

Types of Recoverable Damages in Defamation

These damages have been classified under 5 categories. Depending upon the type of defamation caused and the nature of the verdict, recoverable damages change from situation to situation.

  • Compensatory

In cases where there is damage to property or personal injury in terms of defamation, compensatory damages are sought. Examples: defamation of character, loss of goodwill, reduction in sales and company valuation, etc.

  • General

These damages exclude financial claims against the defendant. Some examples are mental anguish, humiliation, etc.

  • Punitive Damages

Punitive damages literally imply damages paid to punish the defendant. In cases where the defendant has shown negligence and/or misconduct by causing defamation to the plaintiff, punitive damages may be sought if the defamation was malicious in nature. They can often be considerably higher than compensatory charges. There are examples of famous cases where the punitive damages awarded exceed millions of dollars, especially in cases involving large businesses or high net worth individuals.



  • Nominal

When the plaintiff wins the case but due to slight damage done by the defendant, the amount awarded is small. These types of damages are known as nominal damages and usually results when the harm is to able to be quantified into monetary terms. Instead nominal damages may be awarded including injunctive relief such as causing the defamation to cease.

  • Court Costs

To cover the court costs incurred by the plaintiff (if she/he wins the case), the court often orders the defendant to pay the Court costs and other third-party fees which were necessitated to bring forth the case to a final resolution.

All Defamation cases are fact intensive and require an evaluation by an experienced attorney. At ABW Legal, we have extensive experience representing clients throughout the State of Florida


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