Claim of Defamation in the Virgin Islands

In the Virgin Islands, a claim of defamation requires:

(a) a false and defamatory statement concerning another;

(b) an unprivileged publication to a third party;

(c) fault amounting at least to negligence on the part of the publisher;

(d) either actionability of the statement irrespective of special harm or the existence of special harm caused by the publication." (Restatement (Second) of Torts § 558.)

Additionally, the Constitution imposes further requirements to prove defamation of a public official independent of those required under state or territorial law. See Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co., 497 U.S. 1, 11-17, 110 S. Ct. 2695, 111 L. Ed. 2d 1 (1990).

First, where the statements are uttered by a media defendant and involve matters of public concern, the burden of proving the falsity of each statement falls on the plaintiff. Id. at 14.

Second, only statements that are "provable as false" are actionable; hyperbole and expressions of opinion not provable as false are constitutionally protected. Id. at 19-20.

Finally, the Constitution "prohibits a public official from recovering damages for a defamatory falsehood relating to his official conduct unless he proves that the statement was made with 'actual malice.' " New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 279-80, 84 S. Ct. 710, 11 L. Ed. 2d 686 (1964).