Hi, Joe, and Welcome, My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will be assisting you. My goal is to provide you with Excellent Service, so if I have not Answered your question completely, please let me know and I will be glad to explain further,
"Is falsely branding someone a child molester in an online forum, grounds for a defamation suit?"
Not only is it slander, libel, and defamation of character, but the person who is the subject of these defamatory comments does not even have to prove damages; the fact that the false statements related to a crime are damages enough. Here are the requirements in lawsuits for slander (verbally communicated false statements), libel (defamatory statements communicated in writing) and defamation of character:
1. The statements are false;
2. The person making these statements knew they were false, or they were made with reckless disregard to their truthfulness;
3. The person "published" these statements - "Publish" means to communicate them to a third person;
4. (a) In ordinary defamation of character lawsuits, the plaintiff must show that he suffered damages, i.e., that as a result of the defamatory statements, his reputation was ruined in the community.
(b) Where the subject of the defamatory statements is accused of a crime, he does not have to prove damages and it is "defamation per se"
Therefore, your friend would have to meet only the first three requirements in order to win and be awarded damages,
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Good morning, Joe, First, Thank you for the Excellent Service rating and the Bonus, it was both kind and generous of you and I appreciate both greatly.
Thank you for your follow up question and the opportunity to explain further.
Lawsuits for defamation of character usually ask not only for damages, but also for an Injunction so that the Defendant is enjoined from continuing this conduct and spreading these defamatory rumors. If the Defendant continues after an Injunction is granted, then the Defendant can be held in Contempt of Court and given jail time for violating the Injunction (because an Injunction is a Court Order).
However, in order to sue a Defendant and have the Court's judgment have any effect on the Defendant, the Court must first acquire personal jurisdiction over the Defendant. That is accomplished in one of two ways; your friend can file a lawsuit in Georgia where this individual resides and have him served anywhere in Georgia. The Georgia Court would then have personal jurisdiction over him and whether he attends the trial or fails to appear, he will still be subject to the Judgment entered by the Court. The second way is for your friend to file a lawsuit in a Texas Court, but the Defendant would have to be served within the boundaries of Texas in order for the Court to obtain personal jurisdiction over him. So, that may or may not be possible. If he travels to Texas and you know he or she is coming, you can arrange to have the Defendant served within Texas. And, once the Defendant is served, the Texas Court will have personal jurisdiction over the Defendant and whether they show up or not for the trial, the judgment of the Court will effectively be imposed on him anywhere. Your friend could take the Texas judgment and "domesticate" it in Georgia, or any other State where the Defendant or Defendant's assets can be found and execute the judgment there.
If the lawsuit is brought in Federal Court, the Federal Court is bound by State law and would have to apply the State's law on slander, libel, and defamation of character in general. While the Federal District Courts (the Federal trial Court) have broader power to bring a Defendant within its jurisdiction, there are certain requirements which must be met before a Federal District Court will entertain a cause of action. It would have to either involve a Federal question, Federal law, or there is "Diversity of Citizenship". In other words, the litigants are residents of two different States. However, where Diversity of Citizenship is the grounds for filing the action in Federal Court , there is an additional requirement that the amount in controversy is in excess of $75,000. If your friend can prove that damages exceed $75,000, the lawsuit could be brought in Federal Court and it would apply State law on defamation of character actions.
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