Defamation of character occurs when an individual is injured or damaged by a communication that exposes him to contempt or ridicule. Defamation of character is an unjustified and wrongful offense, which deprives a person of his essential dignity and worth. Many states, including Colorado, have laws that support a cause of action against a person or party that defames an individual. In Colorado, that statute of limitations for filing a defamation claim is one year.
Publication of Defamatory Statement
In Colorado, there are four required elements of a cause of action for defamation. The first element includes a defamatory statement concerning another, and the second element is publication of that statement to a third party. Publication is defined by Colorado statute as follows: "No action for libel or slander may be brought or maintained unless the party charged with such defamation has published, either orally or in writing, the defamatory statement to a person other than the person making the allegation of libel or slander." In other words, the responsible party must have published the defamatory to a person other than the defamed person.
The Colorado statute also sets forth that the defamatory statement must be communicated directly to a third party. The statute reads, "Self-publication, either orally or in writing, of the defamatory statement to a third person by the person making such allegation shall not give rise to a claim for libel or slander against the person who originally communicated the defamatory statement." In other words, if a person is defamed to his face, and he communicates this defamatory statement to a third party, publication cannot be assigned to the original person.
The third element of defamation is fault amounting to at least negligence on the part of the publisher. This simply means that defamation need not be intentional. Even if a person did not knowingly or willingly destroy a person's reputation, he can still be held liable under the law.
The fourth element of defamation under Colorado law is either that the statement is of a type as not to require special damages, or the existence of special damages to the plaintiff caused by the publication. This basically means that the plaintiff may or may not have actual, tangible damages, such as medical expenses incurred as a result of the defamatory statements. Still, the plaintiff must prove that the publication of false or defamatory statements did cause damages, such as the destruction of his reputation and good name.
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