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Bench & Bar of Minnesota is the official publication of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

Defamation Damages

Those seeking or defending against remedies for defamation, consisting of harm to reputation, face a number of issues not encountered in other torts, as reflected in Green v. Kellen, 2014 WL 2178783 (Minn. App. 2014)(unpublished), which affirmed denial of general damages and remanded for determination of special damages.

The remedy of injunctive relief generally is not available due to 1st Amendment restrictions on restraining freedom of expression.  A number of types of monetary damages may be sought.  They include the following:

  • General damages, consisting of intangible harm to reputation, generally shown by testimony of the claimant’s reputation before and after the offensive communications;
  • Special damages, comprising tangible, hard evidence of economic loss;
  • Presumed damages, which may be awarded without proof of specific loss for per se defamatory accusations such as criminal or immoral behavior, improper professional behavior, or a contagious disease.
  • Punitive damages, awarded for willful or malicious defamatory communications;
  • Nominal damages, consisting of a slight amount as a balm to the defamed claimant.

Claimants and their advocates should be aware of these varied categories and the different kinds of evidentiary support necessary to achieve them.  Those defending against these claims should advance appropriate legal arguments and compelling evidence minimizing or negating the claimed harm.

Marshall H. Tanick

Hellmuth & Johnson, PLLC

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