Thursday, May 17, 2012

Presumed damages in defamation upheld by NJ Supreme Court

Presumed-Damages Doctrine Upheld in Defamation Cases
from the NJ Law Journal
The New Jersey Supreme Court on Wednesday affirmed the doctrine allowing plaintiffs to pursue defamation claims without having to prove actual harm to their reputations, though recovery will be nominal.
"We hold that presumed damages continue to play a role in our defamation jurisprudence in private plaintiff cases that do not involve matters of public concern," the unanimous court wrote per curiam in W.J.A. v. D.A., A-77-10.
"In today's world, one's good name can to easily be harmed through publication of false and defamatory statements on the Internet," the court said, adding that requiring proof of actual harm could "force an average citizen to ferret out proof of loss of reputation from any of the world-wide potential viewers of the defamatory Internet transmission."
The case at bar goes back to 1998 when D.A. (called "Dave Adams" in the opinion) sued his uncle, W.J.A. (called "Wayne Anderson") for allegedly sexually assaulting him years earlier.
Anderson counterclaimed for defamation based on statements Adams made to Ventnor police. Adams' claim was thrown out as time-barred but Anderson won a $50,000 jury verdict on the defamation claim and $41,323 as a frivolous litigation sanction.

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