a university professor who spoke twice in public hearings concerning a public controversy (Fleming v. Moore);
a public school English teacher and short-term, acting department head whose students complained of her poor teaching performance to parents and the school principal (Richmond Newspapers v. Lipscomb);
a company engaged in archaeological research for both government and private entities that was not generally known to the community and did not seek press regarding a public controversy (Arctic Co., Ltd. v. Loudoun Times Mirror).
Actual Malice and Negligence
Virginia courts apply a negligence standard to defamation claims brought by private figures seeking compensatory damages when the allegedly defamatory statement makes substantial danger to reputation apparent. In cases brought by private figures where substantial danger to reputation is not apparent, the actual malice standard applies. The Gazette, Inc. v. Harris, 325 S.E.2d 713, 725 (Va. 1985).
Public officials, all-purpose public figures, and limited-purpose public figures must prove that the defendant acted with actual malice, i.e., knowing that the statements were false or recklessly disregarding their falsity. See the general page on actual malice and negligence for details on the standards and terminology mentioned in this subsection.
Privileges and Defenses
Virginia courts recognize a number of privileges and defenses in the context of defamation actions, including substantial truth, the opinion and fair comment privileges, and the fair report privilege.
CMLP has not identified any Virginia cases that recognize or refuse to recognize the neutral reportage privilege or the wire service defense. See Chapin v. Knight‑Ridder, Inc., 993 F.2d 1087, 1097 (4th Cir. 1993) (stating that "[w]e have never adopted or rejected the ‘neutral reportage' privilege . . . .")