Hello and thank you for allowing me the opportunity to assist you.
Based on what you wrote, you could sue the sister-in-law (SIL) for defamation of character. In order to win a lawsuit for defamation of character, you must prove that your SIL made a false statement about you to a third party, and that your reputation was damaged as a result. In this case, it appears that is exactly what happened. Your SIL made false statements about you stealing things to the people on Facebook, and now people believe that you are a criminal. If you prove those facts, then you should be able to win a lawsuit. You'll need to sue in Illinois where your SIL lives, so you should retain a local attorney there. I'll warn you that you'll have to pay for the attorney out of your own pocket, however, and it is unlikely that an attorney would take this type of case on a contingency fee basis.
Slander is a type of defamation of character, so if slander occurred, it would be covered in the above mentioned lawsuit. Slander is oral defamation of character. Libel is written defamation of character. Posting the lies on Facebook would be libel, but it's possible that she committed slander as well (though speaking to police is generally immune from defamation of character, so talking to the detective would not likely count). However, filing a false police report is a crime, so you can complain about that to the police, who may take action against your SIL if there is evidence to support the fact that she lied. You can also sue her for abuse of process
, which occurs when somebody abuses the legal system. In this case, it's a long shot since you weren't actually charged with a crime, but you can theoretically sue for that as well.
Unfortunately, you would not likely win a lawsuit for emotional distress. In order to win that type of lawsuit, you'd have to prove that your SIL's conduct was "extreme and outrageous," and that you suffered "severe emotional distress." Extreme and outrageous conduct is conduct that is heinous and beyond the standards of civilized decency or utterly intolerable in a civilized society. While your SIL's conduct is horrible, I'm not sure that it would fall into that category. Also, severe emotional distress means that the emotional distress was accompanied by physical symptoms that can be documented by a physician. You haven't mentioned anything like that, so I'm assuming that is not an issue.
Unfortunately, there is no cause of action for financial distress. In order to win any money to reimburse you for traveling, you'd need to prove that she owed you a legal duty to prevent that travel somehow. Nothing you've stated indicates that such a legal duty existed.
In sum, if you want to sue, it sounds like your best legal strategy is to sue for defamation of character. You should contact an attorney in the county where your SIL resides.
Does that answer your question? Please let me know if you need clarification, as I am happy to continue helping you until you are satisfied. Also, your positive feedback is much appreciated. Thank you for using our service!
If you would like to direct additional legal questions to me in the future, then please type "To VAMD" in the subject line of your question.