The Doctrine of substantial truth

Nov 20, 2020

At times, individuals commit errors or don't express 100% truths. The law doesn't compare each factual inaccuracy as a false statement. To require the literal truth of each statement would prompt a lot of self-censorship and a surge of defamation lawsuits. This prompted the reception of the alleged substantial truth doctrine, which has established in both customary law equity and the First Amendment freedom of the press.

Often, the law examines the statements overall, the core of the issue, and thinks about whether the "significance" of the statements are substantially obvious. This idea is known as the substantial truth doctrine.

The utilization of the Doctrine is viewed as a question of law and, consequently, can be utilized effectively to avert defamation suits.

Courts have utilized the substantial truth doctrine in various manners to excuse defamation claims.


For instance, a Detroit newspaper said that an African-American political candidate said: "I disdain the race" when referring to Caucasians. In reality, the legislator had stated, "I don't care for the race." The Michigan Court of Appeals held in Collins v. Detroit Free Press (Mich. Ct. Application. 2001) that those two statements were sufficiently close to justify the utilization of the substantial truth doctrine.