Can You Sue Someone For Slander? What You Need to Know Featured Image

Can You Sue Someone For Slander? What You Need to Know

When John Smith’s ex-business partner started spreading vicious rumors that John embezzled money and slept with employees, John’s reputation and business were shattered – even though the allegations were completely false. Thankfully, John was able to sue his ex-partner for slander and recover $500,000 in damages. If you’ve been the victim of slander like John, in this article, I’ll explain your legal rights and walk you through the key steps to fight back to restore your good name.

As a defamation lawyer who has represented hundreds of victims of slander or defamation, I know firsthand how painful and destructive it is to have your reputation unjustly attacked. Slander can ruin careers, relationships, and mental health. But you don’t have to suffer in silence. The law provides recourse to hold slanderers accountable, clear your name, and recover compensation for your losses.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll cover:

  • What qualifies as legally actionable slander
  • The criteria you must prove to win a slander lawsuit
  • How to gather persuasive evidence of slander
  • When you can sue for slander per se and what that means
  • The steps to file a slander lawsuit
  • What damages you can recover if you win
  • How Minc Law’s experienced defamation attorneys can help

If you believe you’ve been slandered, keep reading to understand your rights and options.

What is Slander? Defining Defamation and How Slander Differs from Libel

Slander is a false spoken statement that damages your reputation. More specifically, slander is a type of defamation, which is the general legal term for a false statement that harms someone’s reputation. Defamation can be broken down into two forms:

  1. Slander – defamation in oral or spoken form
  2. Libel – defamation in written or published form

So what’s the difference between slander and libel? Both are types of defamation, but slander covers defamatory statements that are spoken, while libel refers to defamatory statements that are written and published. For example:

  • If your coworker falsely tells your boss that you’re stealing from the company, that’s slander.
  • If that same coworker sends your boss an email with those false allegations, that’s libel.

In most states, including Ohio where my firm is based, libel is generally considered more harmful than slander because written statements last longer and can spread further. But slander can still inflict serious damage, especially in our digital age where spoken statements can go viral online.

The key to both slander and libel is that the defamatory statement must be false. If someone spreads negative information about you that’s substantially true, you likely won’t have a defamation case – even if the truth hurts. Defamation lawsuits protect reputations from false attacks, not uncomfortable facts.

Do I Have a Valid Slander Lawsuit? The 4 Key Elements You Must Prove

Slander is not just someone saying something mean or critical about you. To win a slander lawsuit, you must prove the following four key elements:

  1. The statement was false
  2. The statement was “published” (communicated to a third party)
  3. The statement caused you material harm
  4. The speaker acted negligently or with actual malice

Let’s unpack each of these legal requirements:

Element 1: Falsity

You must be able to prove the slanderous statement is substantially false – not just misleading or unflattering. Opinions generally can’t form the basis of a slander claim, but stated opinions can cross the line into defamation if they imply false facts.

Element 2: Publication

In a legal sense, “publication” simply means communicating the slanderous statement to someone other than you, even if it’s just verbally to one person. As long as a third party heard and understood the slander, it’s considered “published.”

Element 3: Material Harm

You must suffer real damage from the slander, either to your reputation, business, finances, or mental health. Hurt feelings alone aren’t enough. You’ll need evidence like lost sales, fewer clients, withdrawn job offers, or medical bills for emotional distress treatment.

Element 4: Negligence or Actual Malice

You must show the slanderer was at least negligent (careless) in spreading the false statement. If you’re a public figure, the bar is higher – you must prove actual malice, meaning the speaker knew the statement was false or recklessly disregarded the truth.

In my experience representing slander victims at Minc Law, gathering compelling evidence is critical to proving these elements and building a winning case. I’ll explain what kind of evidence you need in the next section.

Are you being defamed online? We will get it removed. Contact Minc Law today!

What Evidence Do I Need to Prove Slander?

To have a strong slander lawsuit, you’ll need clear and convincing evidence to back up each element of your claim. This is where many cases fall short. False rumors and “he said, she said” disputes are difficult to prove in court.

That’s why it’s so important to gather all possible evidence as early as you can, while witnesses’ memories are fresh and records are readily available. As soon as you suspect you’ve been slandered, I recommend starting an evidence file. Here are the key types of evidence to look for:

  • Recordings or videos of the slanderous statement being made
  • Witness testimony from people who heard the slander firsthand
  • Documents showing the statement was false (e.g. financial records disproving theft allegations)
  • Online posts, comments, or messages spreading the slanderous statement
  • Evidence of your damaged reputation and losses, such as lost business or job opportunities

Generally, you’ll have a stronger case if you have either a direct recording of the slander or testimony from neutral third-party witnesses. Accused slanderers will often try to deny they made the statement or claim it was taken out of context.

The more specific details your evidence contains about what exactly was said, who said it, when, and to whom, the better. Detailed, fact-based evidence is far more powerful than vague recollections and “someone told me that Bob said X” secondhand rumors.

What is Slander Per Se? When Damages are Assumed

In most slander lawsuits, you have to prove you suffered actual damages from the false statement. But some types of slander are so egregious that the court will presume damages, even if you don’t have specific evidence of harm. This is called slander per se.

There are four main categories of statements that qualify as slander per se:

  1. Allegations of criminal conduct
  2. Allegations of a “loathsome disease” (historically STDs or leprosy)
  3. Allegations of sexual misconduct or perversion
  4. Allegations of professional misconduct or incompetence

Here are some real-world examples of slander per se my firm has encountered:

  • A jealous ex falsely telling people you’re a convicted pedophile
  • A disgruntled patient falsely claiming a doctor botched a surgery and killed someone
  • A business competitor falsely stating you have AIDS to scare away customers
  • A jilted lover falsely accusing you of rape or sexual assault

As you can see, slander per se cases often involve highly inflammatory and damaging false allegations. The law treats these statements as so inherently harmful that you don’t have to prove specific damages to recover compensation.

However, slander per se cases can be complex and often hinge on technicalities. For instance, saying someone is “a criminal” is likely slander per se, but saying they “acted criminally” may not be, depending on the context and jurisdiction. If you think your situation involves slander per se, I recommend contacting an experienced defamation attorney to evaluate your case.

I’ve Been Slandered – Now What? Filing a Slander Lawsuit Step-by-Step

If you’ve determined you likely have a provable slander claim, what’s next? Filing a slander lawsuit can be a complex, time-consuming process – but it’s often the best way to vindicate your reputation and hold the slanderer accountable.

While every case is unique, here’s a general step-by-step overview of the slander lawsuit process:

Step 1: Gather and Preserve Evidence

As discussed above, strong evidence is the foundation of any winning slander case. Collect all recordings, documents, witness statements, and other proof of the slander and damages. Keep detailed records and a timeline of all relevant events.

Step 2: Consult an Experienced Defamation Attorney

Slander law is a highly technical, specialized field that varies by state. Consulting a knowledgeable defamation lawyer is the best way to evaluate the strength of your case, explore your options, and start building a winning strategy. Look for attorneys with specific experience and success in slander litigation.

Step 3: Send a Cease and Desist Letter

In some cases, sending the slanderer a firmly worded cease and desist letter can get them to retract their false statement and apologize without needing to file a lawsuit. Your attorney can draft this letter to stop further slander and lay the groundwork for legal action.

Step 4: File your Slander Complaint

If a cease and desist letter doesn’t resolve the situation, your attorney will prepare and file a formal complaint with the appropriate court. This document lays out your specific allegations against the slanderer and the damages you’re seeking.

Step 5: Survive Motions to Dismiss and Proceed to Discovery

The slanderer (defendant) will have a chance to respond to your complaint and ask the court to dismiss the case. Your attorney will need to convince the judge your complaint is legally sufficient to proceed. If you survive dismissal, the case moves into discovery – a formal process where both sides exchange evidence and take depositions (sworn interviews).

Step 6: Attempt Settlement Negotiations

Many slander lawsuits are resolved through settlement negotiations before trial. Your attorney will advocate for your best interests in these discussions and advise you on the pros and cons of accepting a settlement vs. proceeding to trial.

Step 7: Go to Trial If Needed

If a satisfactory settlement can’t be reached, your case will go to trial. Your attorney will present your evidence and arguments to the judge and jury. Slander trials can be long, expensive, and emotionally draining – but sometimes going to court is the only way to fully vindicate your reputation.

This is a simplified overview of a typical defamation case. The process and timeline can vary widely depending on your specific facts and jurisdiction.

One key thing to keep in mind is that slander lawsuits have a statute of limitations – a strict deadline for filing your complaint. If you miss the deadline, you lose your right to sue, even if you have a strong case. In Ohio, the statute of limitations for slander is one year. This is generally the same time limit for most states, although in some it can be even shorter, and the time limit to file is only six months.

The clock usually starts ticking when the slanderous statement is first made, not when you discover it. That’s why it’s critical to speak with an attorney as soon as possible if you suspect you’ve been slandered. Waiting even a few months can jeopardize your rights.

What Compensation Can I Recover in a Slander Lawsuit?

If your slander lawsuit is successful, you may be entitled to three main types of monetary damages:

  1. Actual damages

Also called compensatory damages, this is money to reimburse you for specific financial losses caused by the slander. Examples include lost income, lost business opportunities, and medical expenses for treating emotional distress. You’ll need documentation to prove the exact dollar amount of your losses.

  1. Presumed damages

In some slander per se cases, the jury can award a certain amount of damages even without proof of specific financial losses. These presumed damages are intended to compensate for harder-to-quantify harms like loss of reputation and standing in the community.

  1. Punitive damages

In extreme cases where the slanderer acted maliciously or with reckless disregard for the truth, the jury may award additional punitive damages to punish the defendant and deter others from similar behavior. Punitive damages are rare in slander cases but can be substantial when awarded.

The amount of damages in slander cases depends on many factors, including the severity of the false statement, how widely it was spread, the plaintiff’s standing in the community, and the strength of the evidence. In my practice at Minc Law, online defamation cases often settle for mid-five to low-six figures, while some high-profile cases with egregious facts have resulted in multi-million dollar verdicts. It really depends on the facts of each case.

But slander lawsuits are about more than just money. Don’t get me wrong. Money is important, no doubt. However, for most of my clients, the primary goal is vindication – a public apology or court ruling that proves the statements against them were false and restores their good name. No amount of money can fully heal the wounds of a shattered reputation, but holding a slanderer accountable in court can provide a sense of justice, closure, and a chance to tell your side of the story.

How Minc Law’s Defamation Attorneys Can Help You Fight Back Against Slander

Slander can feel like a nightmare that ruins your life and leaves you powerless. But I want every victim of false attacks to know that you have rights, you have options, and you don’t have to go through this alone.

Our experienced defamation attorneys have helped thousands of individuals and businesses across the country. If you’re ready to fight back against slander, here’s how Minc Law can help:

  • We offer same-day, free, no-obligation case evaluation to listen to your story, explain your rights, and lay out your options. If our firm is a fit for your legal matter and is appropriately qualified, we can schedule you for a legal consultation where you’ll get actionable advice from an experienced defamation attorney about what a legal engagement would look like and the strengths and weaknesses of your case.
  • If you decide to hire us, we’ll deploy our team of attorneys, paralegals, investigators, and reputation management experts to start building your offense and defense right away. We’ll help you gather and preserve vital evidence, send strategic cease and desist letters, and file an ironclad complaint.
  • We’ll apply maximum legal pressure to get slanderous content taken down, stop false attacks at the source, and send an unmistakable message that you won’t be victimized. We can often resolve cases through aggressive negotiation without the need to file a lawsuit.
  • If your case does go to court, we’ll be your relentless advocate every step of the way. Our battle-tested litigators have gone toe-to-toe with some of the country’s biggest law firms and come out on top. We know how to frame a compelling narrative, neutralize the opposition’s attacks, and persuade judges and juries.
  • We’ll help you not only win your case, but strategically leverage your victory to restore your reputation. Our PR team can place favorable news stories, improve your search results, and tell your side of the story. Suing your slanderer is only half the battle – we help you write the next chapter.

At Minc Law, we understand that the thought of pursuing legal action can feel daunting when you’re already under immense stress. That’s why we combine fierce advocacy with compassionate counsel. We’ll be the shield protecting your reputation and the sword fighting on your behalf.

If you’re ready to take the first step to standing up to slander and reclaiming your reputation, I invite you to contact me and my team at Minc Law. Request your confidential consultation today by calling (216) 373-7706 or filling out our online contact form. Together, we’ll craft a battle plan to hold your slanderer accountable, clear your name, and position you for long-term success.

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