Your Complete Guide to Defamation of Character in Ohio Featured Image

Your Complete Guide to Defamation of Character in Ohio

Ohio is home to countless key landmark decisions and precedents that have helped shape the fabric of defamation laws across the United States. Ohio defines defamation of character as “a false statement that causes harm to a person’s reputation, exposes him to public hatred, contempt, ridicule, shame, or disgrace, or affects him adversely in his trade or business.”

At Minc Law, while we are based in Ohio, we have extensive experience litigating defamation cases across the United States. We know the ins and outs of the nuance driving Ohio’s defamation laws and libel laws across the globe. In our tenure, we have helped more than 2,500 individuals and businesses confidently tackle internet defamation head-on and protect their digital reputations.

This Ohio defamation law guide will cover essential definitions of Ohio defamation law, including what is considered defamatory in Ohio, how a plaintiff can prove that a statement is false and damaging, and the various defenses available to defendants.

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What is Defamation of Character Under Ohio Law?

Defamation, also commonly referred to as defamation of character, is an all-encompassing term for any false statement made to a third party that causes harm to a person’s (or business’s) reputation.

What Are the Two Types of Defamation?

Defamation of character may be broken down into two forms: libel and slander. Libel refers to a false statement(s) that is preserved in a tangible medium – typically in written form. As most posting on the internet are digitally preserved and “not fleeting” in nature, internet defamation typically falls under the category of libel.

Slander is simply a false statement(s) that is spoken and not written. The elements needed to effectively claim defamation are the same for both libel and slander – the only difference being the medium in which the false statement is communicated.

What is Defamation of Character Under Ohio Law?

Ohio defines defamation of character as a “false statement that causes injury to a person’s reputation, exposes him to public hatred, contempt, ridicule, shame, or disgrace or affects him adversely in his trade or business.” Murray v. Knight-Ridder, Inc., 2004-Ohio-821 (7th Dist. Belmont 2004).

In Gosden v. Louis, 116 Ohio App.3d 195, 206 (9th Dist. 1996), the Ohio Court of Appeals identified five core elements a plaintiff must prove to succeed in a defamation claim.

  1. There must exist a false statement of fact,
  2. About the plaintiff,
  3. Published or communicated to a third party,
  4. With at least a negligent level of intent,
  5. That was either ‘defamatory per se’ or caused damage to the plaintiff’s reputation.

We address all five elements in greater detail in the below section ‘Elements of Defamation of Character Claims in Ohio’.

What Are Examples of Defamation of Character in Ohio?

Below are three Ohio cases that demonstrate Court ruling on specific fact patterns demonstrating when certain publications have and have not been deemed defamation.

Sky v. Van Der Westhuizen

A cat breeder sent false and fabricated emails to an Ohio organization and other Ohio residents in the cat breeding circle that alleged her cats were kept in deplorable conditions and treated inhumanely. Naturally, this caused serious injury to the defendant’s reputation as a cat breeder.

While the breeder was not an Ohio resident, she engaged in business activities in Ohio and made defamatory communications to Ohio residents – so Ohio courts had jurisdiction. The defendant was found guilty of defamation and the Doctor was awarded damages.

Worldnet Software Co. v. Gannett Satellite Info. Network

In Worldnet Software v. Gannett, a media company published articles and made a TV report accusing the plaintiff’s website of being an “online scam,” and a “pyramid scheme.” They also reported that the plaintiff failed to help customers and failed to respond to their complaints.

While the court found that the statements regarding the plaintiff’s treatment of customers were defamatory, the “scam” and “pyramid scheme” comments were dismissed as protected opinions.

McKimm v. Ohio Elections Commission

Political candidate Daniel McKimm published a campaign brochure with an illustration showing an opponent receiving money under a table. While McKimm argued that the image was protected by the first amendment, the court considered whether the image could be libelous.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court concluded that the image “implied [an] assertion of fact,” that the opposing politician accepted bribes – based on what the reasonable reader would conclude from the image.

Defamation Per Se in Ohio Explained

Defamation per se is a legal term referring to statements that are considered so inherently damaging and inflammatory, it is presumed that the plaintiff suffered harm. In Johnson v. Campbell, 91 Ohio App. 483, 485 (1952), an Ohio court explained that defamation per se covers statements that are susceptible to “but one meaning,” and that meaning is abusive, disparaging, and defamatory.

“Certain statements are so inherently malicious and defamatory, that additional evidence explaining the nature of the statement won’t suffice.” Bigelow v. Brumley, 138 Ohio St. 574 (1941).

In Ohio, a statement may be considered ‘per se’ if it falls that constitute defamation within one of four categories:

  • A statement that accuses the victim of an indictable offense involving moral turpitude or infamous punishment,
  • A statement implying the victim has an offensive or contagious disease meant to isolate or ostracize the victim,
  • Words that injure a person in their trade or occupation, or
  • Statements that subject the victim to public hatred, ridicule, or contempt.

See, Woods v. Capital Univ., 2009-Ohio-5672 (10th Dist. Franklin 2009).

Compared to other states, Ohio has a fairly broad definition of defamation per se. Many states confine defamation per se to very specific types of statements and do not include Ohio’s fourth category, “statements that subject the victim to public hatred, ridicule, or contempt.”

However, it is worth noting that slander per se is more difficult to establish than libel per se. This is because libel is seen as more permanent, while slanderous, verbal statements are fleeting and often unpreserved in a tangible medium.

For example, to prove slander per se, an Ohio plaintiff must show that the statement not only accused them of a crime but specifically a crime of moral turpitude.

What Are Some Examples of Defamation Per Se in Ohio?

Infamous Punishment Cases

In Earp v. Kent State Univ., 2010-Ohio-5904 (Ct. Cl. 2010), an Ohio resident, Paul Earp, sued a prospective employer for rescinding a job offer while saying he was “convicted of a felony” and “lied on his application.” Earp’s case failed because he was unable to prove publication to a third party, and arguably, more importantly, he was unable to establish defamation per se.

More than 10 years before the lawsuit, Earp was charged with the sexual assault of a child. He pleaded, “no contest,” and ultimately, the state of Texas issued an “order dismissing cause without adjudication of guilt.”

When applying for the job with defendant Kent State, Earp stated he had never been convicted of a crime. During a background check, Kent State human resources discovered the Texas charges, and rescinded their job offer, then publishing the statements that prompted Earp’s defamation lawsuit.

In the Court’s opinion, “it [was] doubtful that anyone, other than a lawyer familiar with Texas [law], would have gathered from…the report that plaintiff was not convicted of a crime.” As such, the defendant did not realize their statements were false, and it was not due to negligence on their part.

In Wilson v. Wilson, 2007-Ohio-178 (2nd Dist. Montgomery 2007), a complex case with multiple causes of action, Richard Wilson accused his ex-spouse of defamation. In support of his complaint, Richard alleged that his ex told his priest and a family member that he was “a pedophile” and viewed “child pornography.”

While Richard did not provide evidence of damages, the Court found that he did not need to, because the alleged comments “constituted defamation per se,” so damages were presumed.

Injury to Trade or Occupation

The Ohio Court of Appeal, in Gosden v. Louis, 116 Ohio App. 3d 195, 227 (1996), found that a letter alleging Godson’s construction company’s workers were “unprofessional” and engaged in voyeurism constituted libel per se.

As such, the plaintiffs did not need to prove they suffered damages, so long as they proved the other elements of their defamation claim.

Public Hatred, Ridicule, or Contempt

In Nicolazzo v. Yoingco, 149 Ohio Misc.2d 44, 53-54 (2007), plaintiff Flora Nicolazzo met defendant Dennis Yoingco when she bought a puppy from him. When Nicolazzo stopped making scheduled payments for the puppy, Yoingco filed a complaint to collect the remaining debt. The defamation case arose when Yoingco created websites and published online posts accusing Nicolazzo of unpaid debts.

While the debt collection lawsuit had yet to be settled at the time Yoingco published the posts, the Court found that there was a genuine dispute over whether Yoingco’s statements could be considered false. The case was allowed to proceed to allow Yoingco to prove the truth of his statements.

Defamation Per Quod in Ohio Explained

Some statements are not considered inherently defamatory but become so (defamatory) due to external facts that appear outside the context of the writing or communication in question. This is called defamation per quod.

A claim for defamation per quod requires a plaintiff to (1) provide extrinsic evidence that supports the falsity of the statement and (2) plead the alleged damages (special damages) that they suffered. to prove how and why the statement in question qualifies as defamation.

Both libel and slander per quod involve statements that contain at least one “innocent meaning that may become defamatory through interpretation and innuendo.” Wilson v. Harvey, 164 Ohio App.3d 278, 286 (2005).

Defamation Per Quod in Action

In Kanjuka v. MetroHealth Med. Ctr., 151 Ohio App. 3d 183 (2002), a nurse, Kanjuka, allegedly resigned from her position at the defendant hospital after her concerns with the hospital’s operations manager were dismissed. Kanjuka denied resigning, but subsequently received a letter from the hospital confirming receipt of her oral resignation. Kanjuka felt that she was being forced out by the operations manager and expressed her concerns to fellow employees.

Kanjuka’s colleagues became concerned and the work environment grew increasingly tense. To clear the air, one of Kanjuka’s colleagues, Dr. Carter, held a meeting with fellow employees and staff who worked with Kanjuka. At the meeting, one of Kanjuka’s colleagues claimed that the operations manager and administration indicated that Kanjuka was leaving due to “a psychiatric problem” or “depression.”

Kanjuka filed a defamation lawsuit, alleging slander per quod, because of the statements communicated to her colleagues during the meeting. According to the Court, “it [was] reasonable for…anyone hearing the statements…to have concluded, through innuendo, that Dr. Carter may have falsely intimated that Kanjuka resigned due to the attributed depression.”

What is Considered Workplace Defamation?

Kanjuka’s case is a sound example of workplace defamation. Workplace defamation, as its name implies, simply refers to false statements published or communicated in the work environment. This form of defamation can result in serious professional consequences for both individuals and businesses.

Workplace defamation can lead to serious damages like:

  • Loss of one’s job,
  • Pay cuts and lost promotions,
  • Strained professional relationships,
  • Rejection from new jobs,
  • Negative performance evaluations, and
  • Being humiliated and ostracized by one’s co-workers.

What is Considered Group Libel in Ohio?

Group libel, also known as group defamation, refers to defamatory statements made about a class of persons (e.g. “all the lawyers at Minc Law”).

While the group as a whole may have a cause of action against someone who commits group libel, an individual member of the group cannot sue for libel on their own, unless they are explicitly mentioned.

Elements of Defamation of Character Claims in Ohio

Understanding the elements of defamation of character laws in Ohio is crucial to proving one’s claim.

Below, we explore the elements that comprise core defamation laws in the state of Ohio and are necessary for a plaintiff to prove to succeed in their claim.

Can You Sue For Defamation of Character in Ohio?

Yes. You can sue for defamation of character in Ohio. However, your claim must meet the five requisite elements of defamation provided under Ohio law.

Plaintiffs must also comply with key legal requirements, like the statute of limitations, and important filing formalities, which we outline below in this guide.

What Are the Elements of Defamation of Character Laws in Ohio

As discussed previously, there are five elements an Ohio plaintiff must prove in a defamation of character claim:

  • A false statement,
  • Was made about the plaintiff,
  • And communicated to a third party, without privilege,
  • With at least a negligent level of intent,
  • That was either defamatory per se or caused special harm to the plaintiff.

1. A False Statement of Fact

For a statement to be considered defamatory, it must be objectively untrue and unsubstantiated. That means that a statement that is substantially true, with few immaterial inaccuracies, will still be considered true (and thus, not defamatory).

Likewise, statements of opinion that can not be proven true or false will not constitute defamation.

2. About the Plaintiff

The false statement must be “of and concerning the plaintiff,” meaning that a statement need not explicitly identify the plaintiff. As long as a reasonable person would understand the statement to be about the plaintiff, then the statement will be considered “of and concerning the plaintiff.”

3. Published or Communicated to a Third Party

A statement must be “published”, meaning it needs to be communicated to another party (not necessarily published in the commonly understood meaning of the word). False statements that are verbally communicated to a third party, written and shared with others, or otherwise published to a third party may be considered defamation.

4. With at Least a Negligent Level of Intent

To prove defamation in Ohio, a plaintiff must show that a defendant was at least negligent concerning the truth or falsity of their statement, meaning the defendant did not act with the reasonable or ordinary care a person would exercise in similar circumstances.

In some situations, such as where the plaintiff at issue is a public figure, a plaintiff must establish the defendant acted with actual malice or reckless disregard when publishing the false statement.

5. That Was Either Defamatory Per Se or Caused Special Harm to the Plaintiff

Finally, a plaintiff must show that the false statement caused harm to their reputation that resulted in damages, such as loss of business, emotional distress, or termination from a job.

Sometimes, a defamatory statement is considered so inherently harmful that a court will presume damages to a plaintiff’s reputation. This is referred to as ‘defamation per se’.

What Kind of Criminal Defamation Laws Does Ohio Have?

As of the date of publication, Ohio is not one of the 23 states with criminal defamation laws in their books. Previously, Ohio had a criminal libel statute until 1974 when it was repealed.

A separate statute provides plaintiffs with the right to demand a correction of a false, defamatory statement. This statute made it punishable by a criminal fine for a media entity and/or person to refuse to publish a correction.

However, this statute has been ruled ‘unconstitutional’ in the Supreme Court’s ruling in Miami Herald Publ’g Co. v. Tornillo, 418 U.S. 241 (1974). The Court struck down a Florida statute allowing political candidates a right to respond to adverse news editorials.

What Damages Are Available in Ohio Defamation Cases?

Actual Damages (Compensatory Damages) in Ohio

In cases of defamation per quod, plaintiffs must prove actual injury to succeed on their claim.

Actual injury includes things like out-of-pocket expenses, damages to one’s reputation, personal humiliation, mental anguish, and suffering.

Punitive Damages in Ohio

Punitive damages go above and beyond actual damages and are designed to punish an exceptionally culpable defendant. In Ohio, punitive damages “may be recovered only upon a showing of both common law actual malice and constitutional actual malice.” Anderson v. Baker, Franklin App. No. 08AP-438, 2008-Ohio-6919.

Presumed Damages in Ohio

In Ohio, the vast majority of courts presume damages for statements that are defamatory per se. Only one court, the Montgomery Appellate Court, has held that defamation per se can be rebutted with evidence of no reputational harm.

While the Ohio Supreme Court has not issued a ruling on the matter, all other Ohio courts have found damages to be presumed when defamation per se is proven, and cannot be rebutted.

Defamation Insurance

Most people carry various forms of insurance – from auto insurance to life insurance. However, most insurance policies do not protect policyholders from defamation claims.

If you are part of a news organization, independent contractor, or freelance journalist, it may be worthwhile to consider a defamation insurance policy. These professions frequently deal with threats of defamation lawsuits, so a defamation insurance policy may protect against the costs associated with these lawsuits.

Video:How Much Does a Defamation Lawsuit Cost? Cost to Sue For Defamation

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To learn more about defamation insurance, check out our guide, “What is Defamation Insurance and Do I Need It?

Ohio’s Statute of Limitations For Defamation of Character Claims

Among others, there is one crucial filing formality and requirement that a defamation target contemplating litigation should understand – the statute of limitations.

What is a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations (SOL) is a time-limiting mechanism placed on when individuals or businesses may file a lawsuit. The statute of limitations dictates how long one has to bring a lawsuit after an unlawful event happens in almost all legal cases.

Video: What is the Statute of Limitations for Defamation in the U.S.?

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The statute of limitations may vary depending on the jurisdiction where you file your lawsuit, the type of claim being disputed, and whether any exceptions apply.

What is Ohio’s Statute of Limitations For Defamation of Character Claims?

A victim of both libel and slander has one year to file a defamation lawsuit in Ohio. Ohio’s defamation statute of limitations will start “running” on the date the defamatory statement is published or communicated, NOT when the victim discovers the statement.

Does Ohio Follow the Single Publication Rule?

The single publication rule is a limitation placed on defamatory publications, the statute of limitations, and a plaintiffs’ ability to bring numerous defamation actions for a single libelous posting. For instance, if a newspaper ran an article containing a defamatory statement and the article is shared by multiple third parties, it is typically considered to be published only once.

The Ohio Supreme Court has not ruled on the single publication rule. Lower courts have held that the right to file a lawsuit for defamation “accrues upon the first publication of the matter complained of.” Rosenbaum v. The Chronicle Telegram, 2002-Ohio-7319, 31 Media L. Rep. 1826 (9th Dist.).

It is important to note that the statute of limitations begins the first time a defamatory statement is published, meaning plaintiffs cannot initiate an otherwise time-barred lawsuit just because it has recently been re-published online.

T.S. v. Plain Dealer & Single Publication Rule

The single publication rule is not set in stone in Ohio. In T.S. v. Plain Dealer, an Ohio Court of Appeals left the option open for future exemptions to the single publication rule. The judge ruled that the specific circumstances of the situation presented a scenario with “no valid basis” to deviate from the rule.

In that case, a republished article that was only linked to one website was at issue. In the Court’s opinion, it was important that “no alterations were made to the article,” “the article was not singled out for republication,” and the material was removed when the plaintiff complained.

For those reasons, the Court did not find sufficient basis to deviate from the single publication rule. But, they left the door option for future cases to deviate from the rule if they have a different fact pattern.

Internet Defamation lawyer Checklist

Important Nuances of Defamation of Character in Ohio

Defamation laws are complex and can be difficult to understand. It is important to consult with an experienced online defamation attorney to maximize your chances of success in a defamation lawsuit.

It may help to take a look at some of the nuances of Ohio defamation law to fully understand how complicated defamation lawsuits can get.

Public vs. Private Person Distinction in Ohio

Ohio recognizes four types of defamation plaintiffs, each with distinct burdens of proof to meet to succeed on their claims.

  1. Private persons,
  2. Public figures,
  3. Public officials,
  4. Limited-purpose public figures.

How Does Ohio Define a Private Persons?

Private persons are virtually all plaintiffs that do not qualify as public officials, public figures, or limited-purpose public figures. These individuals only need to show the defamer was negligent in determining whether their statement was true or false (unless the matter is of public concern, explained below).

How Does Ohio Define Public Figures?

Public figures are individuals in positions of “pervasive power and influence” who invite attention and commentary on all matters. Public figures must always prove actual malice to succeed on a defamation claim.

How Does Ohio Define Public Officials?

Public officials include government employees whose position has such importance that the public has an interest in the qualifications and performance of the person who holds it.

To succeed in a defamation lawsuit, a public official must prove the defamer acted with actual malice or reckless disregard, whether the speech was about a public or private matter.

How Does Ohio Define Limited-Purpose Public Figures?

Some individuals may be considered a limited-purpose public figure if they “thrust themselves to the forefront of a particular controversy.” In those cases, the plaintiff must show that the defendant acted with actual malice when communicating the false statement(s), but only if the defamatory statement pertained to the issues which make the individual a limited-purpose public figure.

For example, businesses that seek to obtain government contracts may be considered limited-purpose public figures. If a defamer publishes a false statement regarding the contract-bidding process or what is done with government funds, the business would likely need to prove actual malice to succeed in a defamation claim.

Matters of Public and Private Concern in Ohio

A private person may still have to prove actual malice if the defamer was speaking on a matter of public concern. Ohio considers a subject a matter of public concern if it is of “legitimate news interest and of value and concern to the public,” and encourages “hearty debate” among the public.

For instance, when a radio station accused a couple of involvement with a murder, the private individuals were required to prove actual malice. Although they were not public figures, “murder is generally a matter of public concern.” Gilbert v. WNIR 100FM, 142 Ohio App.3d 725, 744-45 (2001).

Can I Go to Jail For Slander or Libel in Ohio?

As emphasized above, Ohio does not recognize criminal defamation, unlike 23 other U.S. states. In short, a defendant convicted of defamation (in any form) does not run the risk of jail time.

Ohio recognizes defamation as a tort (a civil action), which means victims of defamation can file a lawsuit in civil court. Civil courts permit plaintiffs to recover financial awards and equitable relief (like the removal of an online post that contains defamatory speech).

Does Ohio Have Food Disparagement Laws?

Food libel, food disparagement, and vegetable libel laws are terms for legislation protecting farmers, manufacturers, and processors of perishable foods from people that make defamatory and insulting remarks about their products.

Ohio and 12 additional states have veggie libel laws on the books. Ohio’s veggie libel, Section 2307.81 of the Ohio Revised Code, was enacted in order to “…protect the vitality of the agricultural and aquaculture economy by providing a cause of action for producers of perishable agricultural and aquaculture food products…”

Food libel laws, for example, may be used in a case where a defendant claims perishable food items are not healthy for human consumption. The claimant would be allowed to seek up to three times normal compensation.

Anti-Slapp Laws in Ohio

Anti-SLAPP laws protect people and organizations from frivolous lawsuits, which is critical to preserving free speech. Ohio does not have any Anti-SLAPP laws, unlike the majority of U.S. states.

Ohio Slander Per Se Distinction

Ohio defamation law provides a very broad test for libel per se. Slander, on the other hand, requires a higher standard. Except in cases of special damage, slanderous statements must “impart a charge of an indictable offense involving moral turpitude, impute [an] offensive or contagious disease, or…cause injury to someone in their professional endeavors.” Northeast Ohio Elite Gymnastics Ctr., Inc. v. Osborne, 183 Ohio App. 104, 109 (9th Dist. 2009).

The distinction between libel and slander is based on the notion that libel is a more serious and long-lasting offense. Words of ridicule, or words of contempt that merely seek to lessen a person’s public reputation or wound his emotions, may be used in a lawsuit for libel because they are recorded in a more permanent and enduring form; as a result of their greater deliberation and malevolence.

Jurisdictional Requirements For Defamation Cases in Ohio

Ohio has a comparatively favorable long-arm statute for filing a defamation claim against out-of-state defendants.

Ohio will have jurisdiction over a defamation matter if an out-of-state defendant:

  • Posts material online that multiple Ohio residents view,
  • Who defames an Ohio resident (and knows they are an Ohio resident).

See, Kauffman Racing Equip. v. Roberts, 126 Ohio St.3d 81 (2010).

Qualified Privilege in Ohio

In Ohio, qualified privilege protects statements made by someone who would be reasonably expected to express his or her views.

To assert the defamation defense of qualified privilege, a statement must be:

  • Upholding an interest,
  • Made in good faith,
  • Made on a proper occasion,
  • Limited in scope and purpose, and
  • Made properly to only proper parties.

See, Jackson v. City of Columbus, 117 Ohio St. 3d 328 (2008).

Incremental Harm Doctrine in Ohio

Ohio does not recognize the incremental harm doctrine.

Repetition of Libelous Statements in Ohio

The law generally recognizes that when someone publishes an allegation to thousands of people without providing any context, this is evidence in and of itself that republication of the author’s original defamation was a natural and foreseeable consequence.

Every person involved in a defamatory publication – whether directly or indirectly – can be held liable for resulting damages. Ohio courts have held, “all persons who cause or participate in the publication of libelous or slanderous matter are responsible for such publication.” Cooke v. United Dairy Farmers, Inc., 2003-Ohio-3118, *P25 (10th App. Dist.).

In Ohio, it is well-established that one can be held liable for repeating another person’s false statements.

How Hard is It to Sue For Defamation of Character?

All lawsuits are unique and revolve around the specific facts at hand. Defamation lawsuits are no different. In a nutshell, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question, “How hard is it to sue for defamation?”.

Video: What Does it Take to File a Defamation of Character Lawsuit?

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In general, there are six key steps to consider when filing a defamation lawsuit:

  1. Determining if there is a valid defamation claim,
  2. Identifying where to file the lawsuit,
  3. Gathering and preserving evidence,
  4. Compliance with pre-suit requirements,
  5. Consideration of Alternative Dispute Resolution and other settlement tactics, and
  6. Drafting, filing, and serving the complaint.

Make sure to read our comprehensive resource breaking down the top defamation of character lawyers in Ohio.

Determine if There is a Valid Claim for Defamation

An experienced online defamation attorney will help you determine if your claim meets the five requisite elements for defamation in Ohio:

  • That a false statement was made,
  • Of and concerning the plaintiff,
  • To a third party, without privilege,
  • With at least negligence on behalf of the defendant,
  • That was either defamatory per se or caused special harm.

Identify Where to File the Lawsuit

You may have the option of filing a lawsuit in more than one state. If so, it is worthwhile to look at each state’s defamation laws to improve your chances of winning and achieving your goals (whether that includes removal of the defamatory post, monetary damages, or both).

Generally speaking, you can file a defamation lawsuit (1) where any defendant resides, (2) where any defendant conducts business, (3) where any defendant posted the defamatory reviews or information, or (4) where the plaintiff resides or conducts business.

Make sure to read our comprehensive guide explaining how an attorney in another state can represent you.

Gather & Preserve Evidence

In any lawsuit, you will need to gather and preserve evidence to prove your claims. Generally, we recommend screenshotting the material in question using your computer, smartphone, or tablet.

Keep a well-documented and chronological timeline of the defamatory statements along with any proof of damages that you or your business has suffered.

Compliance With Pre-Suit Requirements

Before filing a lawsuit, you will need to figure out the requirements for filing a lawsuit in the jurisdiction you select. You will also need to ensure you are filing the lawsuit within the appropriate statute of limitations.

If, for instance, you have waited too long to meet Ohio’s one-year statute of limitations, you may want to see if you have the option of filing a defamation lawsuit in another state.

Consider Alternative Dispute Resolution & Other Settlement Tactics

Before filing a lawsuit, it is wise to discuss litigation alternatives with your defamation attorney. Litigation can be time-consuming and expensive and there might be a more appropriate way of achieving your goals.

Draft, File, & Serve the Complaint

The final step in the process of filing a defamation lawsuit is drafting the complaint. This component can be particularly complicated, making it important to at least consult with an experienced defamation attorney.

An improper or inaccurate complaint can sink a case before it even begins. Assuming you file your complaint properly, you need only serve the defendant before your lawsuit officially begins.

How Serious is Defamation of Character?

Defamation of character can be extremely costly and damaging to your personal and professional life.

Effects of Defamation of Character on Individuals

On one end of the spectrum, defamation can lead to mental health issues like depression and anxiety, as well as strained personal relationships and embarrassment. It can also lead to lost relationships, lost employment opportunities, and community humiliation.

Effects of Defamation of Character on Businesses

Businesses and their owners can experience many of the same effects as individuals, however, there are some damages unique to the business arena. When targeted by defamers, businesses can lose customers and experience negative publicity.

Additional consequences can include decreased foot traffic, severance of partnerships, and loss of sponsors and advertising opportunities. Worst case scenario, defamation can lead a business to shut down entirely.

Ohio Defamation Lawyers at Minc Law Can Help

If someone is defaming you or your business online, we are here to help. At Minc Law, we have extensive experience removing tens of thousands of pieces of content, holding defamers accountable for their actions, and putting an end to internet attacks and abuse for good.

Our experienced internet defamation attorneys use both litigation and alternative dispute resolution to advocate for our clients. We are available to assist you in Ohio or virtually anywhere else in the world.


“Trust me, you don’t want to get into these messes, but I feel a lot more at ease having spoken with the kind folks here at Minc Law. It really won’t hurt to call and assess your options.”

JMS, Jan 26, 2022

You can reach out to schedule your initial defamation consultation with an intake specialist by calling us at (216) 373-7706, filling out our online contact form, or speaking with a Chat representative.

Contact Minc Law

This page has been peer-reviewed, fact-checked, and edited by qualified attorneys to ensure substantive accuracy and coverage.



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