A reputation is hard to win and easy to lose. Information travels fast, there is now a situation which has been created where, to paraphrase Shakespeare, information can go around the world in forty minutes. The span and online presence of social media, as well as the traditional media outlets, can mean that an individual or organisation's reputation can be fatally damaged on a global scale in 24 hours. The internet search engines ensure that the defamatory posts, not only can be accessed by a click but may remain accessible for years. Whilst there is a slowly awakening understanding of the harm malicious falsehoods can deliver to an individual's mental health, the internet giants such as Facebook are often slow to re-act citing freedom of speech as the shield against their lack of action. The underlying opposing principles in any defamation case are the rights of reputation and freedom of expression.
Giambrone's reputation and privacy team recognises the long term damage that false information can cause to an individual's career and professional standing and recommends swift action. Daniel Theron, a partner, commented "taking early action to address a malicious story to prevent a falsehood spiralling out of control is highly recommended. The longer defamatory information is unchallenged the further it will travel and the harder it will be to remove from the various internet platforms." He further commented, "even if the slanderous remarks made are contained within an individual's workplace, how the person is subsequently viewed by their colleagues and the damage created to their standing with senior staff can result in the stagnation of their career and generates a difficult atmosphere creating an impossible working environment for the victim."
Giambrone was instructed by an individual who was on the receiving end of embarrassing and derogatory comments at a social event attended by his manager. During the course of the evening several unpleasant personal comments were directed towards him that could be clearly overheard by his colleagues, drawing critical attention to the individual. Giambrone's reputation and privacy team, led by Daniel Theron, successfully obtained a substantial award in reparation for the unacceptable untrue comments that subjected our client to ridicule.
Whilst malicious falsehoods can slow or stall a person's progression within a company such falsehood directed at a professional with their own practice can result in the collapse of the practice. Dr. Sarah Thornton brought a claim for libel against the Daily Telegraph which arose from a defamatory review published in the seriously regarded and widely read newspaper. Dr. Thornton's successful case not only resulted in an award to Dr. Thornton for damage but also the introduction of the "threshold of seriousness" test aimed at determining whether the statement is defamatory and also to exclude trivial cases.
The "serious harm" test has subsequently been recognised and codified by Parliament under Section 1(1) of the Defamation Act 2013 with the statutory requirement that a statement must cause, or be likely to cause, "serious harm" to the reputation of a claimant for it to be considered defamatory for the purposes of the Act. In relation to corporations, subsection (2) further states that companies must have suffered, or be likely to suffer, serious financial loss to pass the serious harm threshold.
Once the damage has been done there are a number of actions that an individual can take against a person or organisation that defamed, slandered or libelled you. Amongst the remedies available are gaining a retraction and/or apology. An undertaking or even an injunction to prevent a repetition of the defamatory statement can be sought. A statement in open court can go some way to correcting the record. The remedy with the most impact is obtaining payment for damages as compensation for the harm caused to your reputation and the injury to your feelings. The damages will reflect the gravity of the falsehood and how widely it was disseminated, together with the settlement of your legal costs.
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