What is a reputation worth? In defamation cases, juries are tasked with answering this very question. In New Jersey, actual, punitive and presumed damages can be awarded to vindicate a person’s reputation.
Actual damages, also known as compensatory damages, “are intended to compensate the plaintiff for the wrong done by the defamatory speech.” Nuwave Investment Corp. v. Hyman Beck & Co., 221 N.J. 495, 499 (2015). There are two types of actual damages, specific and general. Specific damages “compensate a plaintiff for specific economic or pecuniary loss.” Id. General damages are those “not capable of precise monetary calculation” and “can include harm caused by impairment to reputation and standing in the community, along with personal humiliation, mental anguish, and suffering to the extent that they flow from the reputational injury.” Id. (Internal quotation marks and citations omitted.) Importantly, “all compensatory damages, whether considered special or general, depend on showing of actual harm, demonstrated through competent evidence, and may not include a damage award presumed by the jury.” Id.
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