Colorado Defamation is a unique area of law because proving one’s defamation case may depend on whether they are considered a public or a private figure. An individual’s status as a public or a private figure determines the level of intent required for the court to uphold a claim for defamation.
Most people are private figures. Private figures are individuals who neither seek out public notoriety nor have been involved in a matter of public interest. As such, private figures have greater protection regarding statements made about them than public figures. For a claim of defamation to be upheld against a private figure regarding a matter of private concern in Colorado, the individual bringing the claim must prove that the statement was made negligently with respect to its truthfulness.
Public figures are individuals who have sought out public notoriety or become figures in matters of public concern. While many people intentionally seek to become public figures, it is possible for a private individual to unwittingly become a public figure. Because such individuals and such matters are of public concern, there are additional protections for speakers who make comments about these individuals. To uphold a finding that a public figure has been defamed, the court must determine that the speaker of a defamatory statement acted with actual malice, that is to say, that the speaker either knew their statement was false or made the statement with reckless disregard for the truth.
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