Defamation is a tort that holds individuals liable for false statements, spoken or written, which harm the reputation of another. In general, a defamation complaint must be sufficient to identify the accused defamer and outline the circumstances of the publication of the false statements. The tort protects public figures as well as private individuals and is interpreted under state law. The statute of limitations is one year for bringing an action for defamation.
In Pennsylvania, the elements of the tort are outlined in the Uniform Single Publication Act (USPA). The burden is initially on the Plaintiff to prove each element: 1. The defamatory character of the communication, 2. Its publication by the Defendant, 3. Its application to the Plaintiff, 4. The recipient’s understanding of its defamatory meaning, 5. The recipient’s understanding of it as intended to be applied to the Plaintiff, 6. Special harm resulting to the Plaintiff from the publication (actual damages that are economic or pecuniary). 7. Abuse of a conditionally privileged occasion (the publication was not reasonably necessary due to common interests).