- When the defamatory statement involves a matter of public concern, there are two restrictions on private plaintiffs:
- (1) liability without fault is prohibited; and
- (2) presumed or punitive damages are restricted.
Plaintiff must show that defendant was negligent in failing to ascertain the truth of the statement. If plaintiff is able to show negligence, but not malice, he must also provide competent evidence of actual damages. Actual damages may be awarded for economic losses and also for injury to reputation in the community and for personal humiliation and distress.
Presumed or punitive damages are allowed only if malice is established.
Courts decide on a case by case basis whether the defamatory statement is a matter of public concern, looking at the content, form, and context of the publication.