Actual Malice Law and Legal Definition

Actual malice is a statement made with a reckless disregard for truth. Actual malice can be established through circumstantial evidence. High degree of awareness of falsity is required to constitute actual malice. If the plaintiff is a public figure, the plaintiff should prove by convincing evidence that the defendant published a defamatory statement with actual malice, i.e. with “knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.” If the plaintiff is unable to prove actual malice, then the plaintiff cannot recover. Masson v. New Yorker Magazine, 501 U.S. 496 (U.S. 1991)

One of the standards required for actual malice is that the plaintiff must demonstrate that the author in fact entertained serious doubts as to the truth of his publication, or acted with a high degree of awareness of probable falsity. Such evidence can overcome a defendant's insistence that it acted in good faith and with the honest belief that the statement was true. Medure v. Vindicator Printing Co., 273 F. Supp. 2d 588 (W.D. Pa. 2000)