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What Is a Slander Lawsuit?

Sarah Edwards | November 03, 2022

Sarah Edwards
Legal Expert
Sarah Edwards, BS

Sarah Edwards is a professional researcher and writer specializing in legal content. An Emerson College alumna, she holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication from the prestigious Boston institution.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Be careful what you say; a slander lawsuit could come back to haunt you.

Summary: Slander is when someone spreads rumors or claims about a person that harms their reputation within their community, leading to damages involving employment, finances, etc. Slander per se is a type of slander that involves false criminal accusations.

If you are the victim of someone who made a statement about you that damaged your reputation, you might have grounds to file a slander lawsuit. Slander occurs when someone makes a false statement, usually with malicious intent to cause you harm. Slander falls under the umbrella of defamation, which also includes libel.

What is the legal definition of defamation?

The definition of defamation can vary by state but typically involves damage to someone’s reputation within their community or society. Many rules limit defamation cases because people can make statements they don’t mean when emotions run high.

Free speech also impacts defamation cases. Courts try to balance an individual’s right to free speech with the damage done to the victim. A court will find in favor of the victim if it determines that the injury has caused a severe enough impact on the victim’s well-being.

The judge or jury has the final say in whether a statement is defamatory. If there are multiple interpretations of the statement, they must evaluate it carefully before making a decision.

What are the elements of a slander lawsuit?

There are two types of slander: slander and slander per se.

A slander case is the stricter of the two. In a slander allegation, you must show that the defendant made the statement to a third party and the statement caused you specific, tangible losses.

Tangible losses are those of financial value, like losing your job, business, or home.

Individuals pursuing a slander per se case do not have to prove that the statement made caused them damage. The statement itself is enough to assume they incurred injuries.

Cases that meet the requirements of slander per se include accusing the plaintiff of being a criminal, saying the person has a contagious disease, or making damaging statements about the person’s profession or company.

What is an example of slander?

Slander can involve numerous situations that cause damage to another person’s reputation.

Let’s take a look at an example of slander.

Example: Bob approaches Sally, a married woman, and tells her that her husband is cheating. Already suspicious of her husband, Mark, Sally takes the comments to heart and files for divorce, asking for custody of the children, child support, and alimony. However, Mark never cheated on Sally and decides to sue Bob who made the false accusations. Mark provides evidence of the divorce filing to prove he suffered damage. The court finds the case in Mark’s favor, and the he recovers restitution for his losses.

What is an example of slander per se?

Keep in mind that slander is different from slander per se. Slander per se usually involves untrue criminal accusations.

Let’s consider an example of slander per se.

Example: Consider a celebrity asked to speak on television. During the interview, the host asks them about a prior romantic relationship they had with another famous person. The interviewee spends the next ten minutes talking negatively about their ex, accusing them of cheating to get roles in movies and spending most of their time doing drugs. The interview appears on television, and it reaches millions of people. The ex, the subject of the negative comments, loses several high-profile roles they had lined up. Police investigate the celebrity’s statements about the ex’s drug use, which leads to further adverse publicity. The ex decides to sue the celebrity for slander per se. The ex claims the statements made by the star were untrue. The case goes to court and finds in favor of the victim.

How can you prove slander?

If you want to prove slander, your case must contain four elements:

  • The statement must be false, and you should be able to prove it is false.
  • Someone (a third party) must be a witness to the statement made.
  • Your reputation must suffer specific harm as a result of the statement made.
  • The statement can’t be made in a privileged setting like a doctor’s office.

If you cannot prove all four elements, it will be challenging to win your case.

How can I defend myself in a slander lawsuit?

There are three defenses to slander. They include all of the following:

  1. You spoke the truth. If your statement was true, you’re automatically not responsible for the fallout. Even if the person suffered damage, they cannot hold you liable.
  2. Your statement was an opinion. If your statement was an opinion but not rooted in fact, you have a defense. Everyone has the right to express an opinion via the right to free speech.
  3. Your statement is privileged. Anyone who makes a statement in a privileged setting like a courtroom or public hearing is not guilty of slander. If you can prove any of the three defenses, you will not be guilty of slander or slander per se.

Learn more about how to defend yourself in a defamation lawsuit.

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