A plaintiff may bring an action for defamation if the defendant's defamatory language is of or concerning the plaintiff, is published to a third party who understands its defamatory nature, and damages the plaintiff's reputation.
Defamatory Language: To be defamatory, the language used must diminish the respect, esteem, or goodwill towards plaintiff.
Of or Concerning: A reasonable person must believe that the defamatory communication refers to this particular plaintiff and holds him up to scorn or ridicule in the eyes of a substantial number of respectable members of the community.
Publication: Publication of defamatory matter is its intentional or negligent communication to a third party.
Falsity: If the defamatory statement relates to a matter of public concern, or plaintiff is a public official or figure, plaintiff must also prove that the statement is false.
Fault: If the plaintiff is either a public official or a public figure, he is required to prove that the defendant acted with actual malice, and either had knowledge that the statement was false or acted with reckless disregard as to the truth or falsity of the statement.
If the plaintiff is a private individual and the defendant's statement involves a matter of public concern, the plaintiff is constitutionally required to prove that the defendant acted with fault—either negligence or actual malice.
Damages: Plaintiff must prove actual damages if he is a public figure/official or a private figure but a matter of public concern is involved. If plaintiff is a private figure and this is not a matter of public concern, then general and presumed damages can be recovered without proving actual malice.