Identify the Defendants
Determine the identity of the defendants. You may sue not only the person who made the defamatory statement, but also anyone who repeated it or published it.
Obtain a copy of the defamatory statement, if it was published or written down. If only a verbal statement was made, you can use the person to whom the statement was made as a witness in your favor. If the witness is unwilling to testify, you may petition the judge to issue a subpoena compelling the witness to testify under oath.
Assemble evidence that the statement is untrue. The burden of proof rests with the plaintiff to establish that the statement is false.
Establish that the statement was defamatory. It is defamatory if it had a tendency to harm your reputation, or if by its nature it would cause mental anguish to a reasonable person of average sensitivity. Certain types of statements are almost always considered defamatory--attacks on professional character, accusations of sexual promiscuity, claims that that you committed a morally repugnant crime, and assertions that you have contracted a sexually transmitted disease.
Establish that you suffered damages as a result of the defamatory statement. These damages can include economic damages, damages to your reputation, and mental anguish.
File a lawsuit against the defendant in the state district court. Your complaint should allege each element of defamation of character as set forth above.
- Dana Neely/Digital Vision/Getty Images