Carruthers Law Solicitors are based in Liverpool but act for clients nationwide

Malicious Falsehood

Malicious falsehood exists to protect against statements which themselves are not defamatory but are untrue and cause damage. It is possible to have a statement which is not defamatory and a claim in libel or slander would not succeed but a Claimant still has a claim in malicious falsehood.

  • An example of malicious falsehood would be a situation if somebody says that a solicitor has retired from practice. As a consequence this could cause financial loss through lost trade.
  • It is a false statement; it is not defamatory because it does not suggest anything bad about the solicitor ,just that he is not now practicing.
  • Another example might be a comparative advertisement; a false statement about your competitor’s products is unlikely to be defamatory but if false may well give rise to an action in malicious falsehood.

In a claim for malicious falsehood the Claimant must prove that the statement was not true and published maliciously.

Malice is defined as a statement made by a party who knows that the statement is false or reckless as to its truth. Being negligent as to to the truth of the statement is not sufficient.

A Claimant has to establish that he or she has suffered actual damage/ loss in order to be able to bring an action for malicious falsehood. There are exceptions. It is not necessary to prove actual damage if the words in dispute are

  • calculated to cause financial damage to the Claimant and are published in writing or the permanent form or;
  • calculated to cause financial damage to the Claimant in respect to his office, professional calling, trade or business.

The limitation period for a malicious falsehood claim is as a defamation claim 1 year.

If the party making a statement publishes a correction quickly and realises the error it will go some way to reducing the prospect of a successful claim by the Claimant being able to show malice.

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