Lowdown on Slander Laws

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What is the definition of slander? I need to know, because some jerk I called children's services on is going around, telling people I'm a rapist. Then, he calls them and threatens them, but of course, the person thinks it's me. Sick person, huh? I'm trying to use the outline of your book, "Winning Every Time" to build a case against him before I present to a lawyer, thanks for the great book.Michael (Akron, OH)

This is an answer to Michael in Ohio, but there are lots of single Michelles out there who need to know this as well!

Let me first give some background to this area of law, for those who aren’t familiar. Defamation is defined as “communication of a statement that makes a false claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may harm the reputation of an individual, business, product, group, government or nation.” There are then two sub-categories of defamation — slander and libel. Slander is spoken defamation and libel is written defamation. In your case, the statements about you were spoken and will likely negatively reflect on your reputation, so they would most likely be considered slander.

When trying to build a case to show that you are a victim of slander, you first must prove that what was said is actually not true. Truth is always a defense to slander. So, if the statement made actually was true you won’t have a case. In fact, establishing that a statement is accurate is a complete defense to a slander suit. It is also a complete defense if the statement made was asserted as an “opinion” (i.e. saying “I think” versus saying “He is”). However, in your case assuming that the comments are not true and were not expressed as opinions, you may be able to bring an action for slander. The standard used in slander cases that the comments must reach are that they must be so reprehensible and false that they affect your reputation in your community. The defamation also must have long-lasting and definite consequences. Your case sounds like it might meet this standard so it is possible that you have a plausible cause of action.

Once you have established that you may have a plausible case you can determine what type of damages to sue for. Generally, litigants in this type of lawsuit may seek either actual damages to recover from the economic harm that they may have suffered, punitive damages to punish the person who made the alleged statement, or both.

Note that the definition of slander differs between not only different states, but also under federal law. If you have been harmed by the defamatory remarks or statements, seek the advice of an attorney in your area. You can find a listing of specialists in your area at AttorneyPages.com.


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Slander Laws

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Lis Wiehl joined FOX News Channel as a legal analyst in October 2001. She is currently a professor of law at the New York Law School. Wiehl received her undergraduate degree from Barnard College in 1983 and received her Master of Arts in Literature from the University of Queensland in 1985. In addition, she earned her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 1987. Lis is also the author of The 51% Minority — How Women Still Are Not Equal and What You Can Do About It. (Watch the Video) To read the rest of Lis's bio, click here.