A limited-purpose public figure is someone who injects himself or herself into a particular public controversy. The determination of whether a particular individual qualifies as a limited-purpose public figure depends on the (1) plaintiff's access to the media; and (2) the extent to which the plaintiff, by virtue of his or her position in the community or involvement in a matter of public concern, can be said to invite public comment or attention. Examples of individuals and organizations deemed limited-purpose public figures by Ohio courts include:
the owner of a private art school (for purposes of discussing its administration);
a retired schoolteacher who worked for the public school system for 30 years, regularly attended and voiced concerns at school board meetings, and had his own talk show entitled "One Man's Opinion" where he discussed matters relating to the board (for purposes of discussing his statements and conduct at a board meeting); and
a restaurant and its owner (for purposes of review of the restaurant).
Actual Malice and Negligence
In defamation suits brought by private figure plaintiffs, Ohio courts require a plaintiff to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant "failed to act reasonably in attempting to discover the truth or falsity or defamatory character of the publication." Landsdowne v. Beacon Journal Publ'g, 512 N.E.2d 979, 984 (Ohio 1987). The Ohio test is similar to an ordinary negligence standard, but the "clear and convincing evidence" standard requires the plaintiff to put forward strong evidence of negligence.
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.