REVISED JUDICATURE ACT OF 1961 (EXCERPT)
Act 236 of 1961
600.2911 Action for libel or slander.
(1) Words imputing a lack of chastity to any female or male are actionable in themselves and subject the person who uttered or published them to a civil action for the slander in the same manner as the uttering or publishing of words imputing the commission of a criminal offense.
(2)(a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), in actions based on libel or slander the plaintiff is entitled to recover only for the actual damages which he or she has suffered in respect to his or her property, business, trade, profession, occupation, or feelings.
(b) Exemplary and punitive damages shall not be recovered in actions for libel unless the plaintiff, before instituting his or her action, gives notice to the defendant to publish a retraction and allows a reasonable time to do so, and proof of the publication or correction shall be admissible in evidence under a denial on the question of the good faith of the defendant, and in mitigation and reduction of exemplary or punitive damages. For libel based on a radio or television broadcast, the retraction shall be made in the same manner and at the same time of the day as the original libel; for libel based on a publication, the retraction shall be published in the same size type, in the same editions and as far as practicable, in substantially the same position as the original libel; and for other libel, the retraction shall be published or communicated in substantially the same manner as the original libel.
(3) If the defendant in any action for slander or libel gives notice in a justification that the words spoken or published were true, this notice shall not be of itself proof of the malice charged in the complaint though not sustained by the evidence. In an action for slander or for publishing or broadcasting a libel even though the defendant has pleaded or attempted to prove a justification he or she may prove mitigating circumstances including the sources of his or her information and the ground for his or her belief. Damages shall not be awarded in a libel action for the publication or broadcast of a fair and true report of matters of public record, a public and official proceeding, or of a governmental notice, announcement, written or recorded report or record generally available to the public, or act or action of a public body, or for a heading of the report which is a fair and true headnote of the report. This privilege shall not apply to a libel which is contained in a matter added by a person concerned in the publication or contained in the report of anything said or done at the time and place of the public and official proceeding or governmental notice, announcement, written or recorded report or record generally available to the public, or act or action of a public body, which was not a part of the public and official proceeding or governmental notice, announcement, written or recorded report or record generally available to the public, or act or action of a public body.
(4) A person against whom a judgment is recovered for damages arising out of the authorship or publication of a libel is entitled to recover contribution in a civil action from all persons who were originally jointly liable for the libel with the defendant or defendants, whether joined as defendants or not, to the same extent as and with the same effect that joint sureties are liable to contribute to each other in cases where they are sureties on the same contract. If the libel has been published in a newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication or by a radio or television broadcast, the servants and agents of the publisher or proprietor of the periodical or radio or television station or network, and the news agents and other persons who have been connected with the libel only by selling or distributing the publication containing the libel and who have not acted maliciously in selling or publishing the libel, shall not be required to contribute and shall not be taken into account in determining the amount that any joint tort feasor is required to contribute under the provisions of this section. If the author of the libel acted maliciously in composing or securing the printing or the publication of the libel and the printer, publisher, or distributor of the libel acted in good faith and without malice in printing and publishing the libel, the author of the libel is liable in a civil action to that printer, publisher, or distributor for the entire amount of the damages which are recovered against and paid by that printer, publisher, or distributor.
(5) In actions brought for the recovery of damages for libel in this state, it is competent for the defendant or defendants in the action to show in evidence upon the trial of the action that the plaintiff in the action has previously recovered a judgment for damages in an action for libel to the same or substantially the same purport or effect as the libel for the recovery of damages for which the action has been brought, or that the plaintiff in the action has previously brought an action for the libel or has received or agreed to receive compensation for the libel.
(6) An action for libel or slander shall not be brought based upon a communication involving public officials or public figures unless the claim is sustained by clear and convincing proof that the defamatory falsehood was published with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether or not it was false.
(7) An action for libel or slander shall not be brought based upon a communication involving a private individual unless the defamatory falsehood concerns the private individual and was published negligently. Recovery under this provision shall be limited to economic damages including attorney fees.
(8) As used in this section, “libel” includes defamation by a radio or television broadcast.
History: 1961, Act 236, Eff. Jan. 1, 1963
Am. 1988, Act 396, Eff. Jan. 1, 1989
Constitutionality: A communication is not constitutionally privileged if its subject involves a private person in the context of a matter of public interest. Rouch v Enquirer & News of Battle Creek, 427 Mich 157; 398 NW2d 245 (1986).
© 2009 Legislative Council, State of Michigan