Defamation – Slander and Libel [cont'd 3]

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The retraction or correction of defamatory statements to limit damages

Thirty–one states, including Montana, have statutes that recognize the retraction or correction of defamatory statements as a defense to varying degrees in a civil defamation lawsuit. In Montana, the media organization (newspaper, magazine, radio, cable or television organization) can avoid punitive damages if the defamatory statement was an honest mistake, and if they can show the extent to which their correction was made.

But the defamed person must first have provided the media organization a reasonable opportunity to correct the defamation by providing written notice specifying the falsities and providing a statement of the true facts. M.C.A. 27–1–818. “Reasonable time for correction” means the first issue of a newspaper, magazine, or periodical after the expiration of one week from receiving notice of the falsity, and the correction must be published without comment in a position and type as prominent as the alleged libel. For radio, cable and television broadcasts, “reasonable time for correction” means broadcasting the retraction or correction within a week of receiving notice of the falsity, and the correction or retraction must be made at the same time as the broadcast complained of, and be of at least equal duration. M.C.A. 27–1–819, 821.

Invasion of privacy

People have a right to be left alone and free from unwanted publicity. Article II, Section 10 of the Montana Constitution recognizes this valuable right.

Invasion of privacy includes the following:

1.   the unlawful appropriation of another’s image;

2.   intrusion into the plaintiff’s solitude, seclusion or private life in a manner that would be considered highly offensive to a reasonable person;

3.  the public disclosure of private facts (this requires that the disclosed facts have no link to a legitimate public concern and that the disclosure results in embarrassment, humiliation or offense to the plaintiff); and

4.  the right to be free from being placed in a false light in the public eye (this is similar to defamation in that the “publication” must be false, and although it does not need to be “defamatory,” it must be highly offensive to a reasonable person).

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