Defamation IRAC Model

Defamatory statement

A statement that tends to lower the reputation of the plaintiff within the community.



Written defamation.


Verbal defamation.


Of and concerning the plaintiff

A reasonable person must understand that the statement was of or concerning the plaintiff.

Published to a Third Person

The statement must have been published to a third party that understood the statement.

That causes damages to the plaintiff.

General damages are presumed for libel. Libel is written defamation.

Slander is spoken defamation. Plaintiff must prove damages, if not slander per se.


Constitutional defamation

Matter of public concern



IIED can be a tort here…..but you first have to prove it


If the defamation is a matter of public concern, then the plaintiff must also prove the additional elements of:

  1. Falsity – The plaintiff is required to prove falsity of the claim;
  2. Fault on the part of the Defendant – The type of fault that a plaintiff must prove depends on whether the plaintiff is a public or private figure.


A public figure is a person who achieves fame or notoriety or is in government office. If the plaintiff is a public figure, then they have to prove actual malice as defined in New York Times v. Sullivan.

Actual Malice (New York v. Sullivan)

Requires a showing of knowledge that the statement was false or made with reckless disregard as to whether it was false.

False or reckless as to its truth.

Matter o

PRIVATE FIGURE (Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc)

If the plaintiff is a private figure then he only needs to prove negligence regarding the falsity of the statement regarding the matter of the concerned.


The four most common types of invasion of privacy torts are as follows: 

Appropriation of Name or Likeness.

  1. The defendant (the party being sued) used the plaintiff’s (the party initiating the lawsuit) name, likeness or identity;
  2. The use was for the defendant’s benefit, whether the benefit is economic or otherwise;
  3. The use was without the plaintiff’s consent; and
  4. The use caused injury to the plaintiff.

Intrusion Upon Seclusion.

  1. The defendant intruded into the plaintiff’s private affairs, seclusion or solitude; and
  2. The intrusion would be objectionable to a reasonable person.

The defendant does not need to communicate the details of the intrusion to a third party; once the defendant has committed the intruding act (and the plaintiff proves the necessary elements), the defendant is liable for invasion of privacy.

False Light.

Generally, the elements of false light are as follows:

  1. The defendant publicly disclosed information about the plaintiff;
  2. The information placed the plaintiff in a false light; and
  3. The false light would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.

Many states also require the plaintiff to prove that the defendant acted with actual malice, so be sure to check your state’s laws or consult with a lawyer if you believe you may have a claim.

Public Disclosure of Private Facts.

While state laws vary, the general elements of this tort are as follows:

  1. The defendant publicized a matter regarding the private life of the plaintiff;
  2. The publicized matter would be highly offensive to a reasonable person; and
  3. It is not of a legitimate concern to the public.

To publicize a private matter, laws generally require that the private information is disseminated in such a way that it is substantially certain to become public knowledge.