Libel occurs when a false and defamatory statement about an identifiable person is published to a third party, causing injury to the subject’s reputation. Each state creates its own body of libel law, although the First Amendment requires plaintiffs or prosecutors to prove fault before a news organization can be held liable for defamatory communications.
Generally, courts consider six different legal elements in libel cases: the defamatory nature of the communication, how it was published, the truth or falsity of the claims, whether it is "of and concerning" an individual, reputational harm caused and the degree of fault. The defendant in a libel claim also may have specific defenses available, often including anti-SLAPP statutes.
Companies can also bring suits for product disparagement. Criminal libel charges also pop up from time to time, and some suits are over the infliction of emotional distress. Journalists should know some basic tips for avoiding libel suits.