A publication in which someone is falsely accused of things or otherwise is insulted affects the honour and reputation of that person. This damage is called reputational damage. However, not every publication that harms the reputation of a person results in liability for compensation. Reputational damage is only eligible for compensation if it is the result of an unlawful publication, slander or libel. A critical article about a person’s misconduct may be completely lawful, even if the person concerned is harmed in his reputation. The question of whether it concerns an unlawful publication is judged by the court on the basis on the circumstances.
Reputational damage is usually immaterial damage. This is damage that cannot be assessed exactly (unlike e.g. loss of sales volume). This is why the court is free to assess the compensation ‘equitably’ (or “ex aequo et bono” in legal jargon) in such a case. The amount of this compensation depends on various factors such as the seriousness of the unlawful accusation, the extent to which the person is publicly known, and the scope of the contested publication. An unlawful publication in a national newspaper will inflict more damage to a person’s reputation than a publication in a free local paper. For the calculation of this compensation, also called damages for pain and suffering, the court may also seek alignment with the damages guide, which contains many examples of allowed compensations for damage.
Sometimes, the injured party has to incur costs for preventing or repairing reputational damage. Here you can think of engaging PR services, a spin doctor, placing advertisements, or informing clients and business relations through a newsletter. These costs can be assessed exactly and may also be eligible for compensation. They concern material damage.
Did you suffer damage as a result of an unlawful publication, or libel or slander? Our team of lawyers have extensive experience in litigating for compensation for and rectification of unlawful comments in the media. The lawyers of AMS are deeply committed to their clients’ cases, work with short lines, and offer competing rates.