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Defamation of Character Law

What is defamation of character?

Defamation is defined as a false or untrue statement of malicious nature that is communicated to other people with intent to damage a person’s reputation. It exposes the victim to hatred, contempt or ridicule from others. If the defamation is oral or spoken against a person it is referred to as slander. Libel would be defamatory statements in a printed or fixed medium. The statements can be written, photographic, printed, on the internet, and so on. However, if a written or spoken statement is true, it is not defamatory. This means that even if a person’s reputation is damaged due to derogatory statements, no action or recourse can be taken if those statements are truthful.

The law of defamation covers the following:
  • The slander or libel must be false, because if the statements are true this can be used as a defense in a trial
  • The false statements should have resulted in monetary loss and these monetary losses should be provable

Can I sue my former employer for defamation of character? He spread false statements about my previous employment and this is affecting my current job which is in a related line of work.

Yes, in such a scenario, your former employer could be sued for defamation. Anyone carelessly repeating these false defamatory statements may also be sued for any resulting damages. As the person filing the suit, you should be aware of the following:
  • The person you are suing made a factual statement about you to a third party;
  • The statement communicated was false;
  • The statement affected you negatively.
Keeping the above in mind, if your former employer’s statements in any way harmed your reputation and caused damages, such as causing you to lose customers or your new job, you should be able to sue the employer for the value of those damages.

A former friend is spreading a malicious rumor about me while I was away from work due to medical reasons. This is affecting the family business in Missouri. What can I do?

In Missouri, you can sue for damages if you feel someone is slandering you. In addition, slander is a misdemeanor, which means you may be able to press criminal charges. With respect to the civil offense, you as the affected party can file a lawsuit against the person making these false statements. With the help of an attorney, you can send a warning letter to the former friend, instructing them to cease and desist. The letter should state what the false statement is along with the reasons why it is false. The letter should warn the offender that they need to refrain from continuing the slander, as they have been presented with the truth, and if the slander continues, it is a criminal offense. If this doesn’t stop the defamation, the attorney can also help you file the criminal charges.

How can I file or draft a petition or suit against a private party in the state of Nevada?

Generally a petition is too complex and needs to be customized to the situation. Hence it would not be available as a form. There may be a standard format used by attorneys to draft a petition but there is no template. A petition should contain at least one cause of action. Each action will have different elements. In the state of Nevada, per Chowdhry v. NLVH, Inc. 109 Nev. 478, 483, 851 P.2d 459, 462 (1993) the elements are as follows:
  1. 1. a false and defamatory statement by [a] defendant concerning the plaintiff;
  2. 2. an unprivileged publication to a third person;
  3. 3. fault, amounting to at least negligence; and
  4. 4. actual or presumed damages.

In order to win the suit you need to prove all the above elements with concrete proof or evidence.

I filed a defamation suit in a small claim court in Texas but it was rejected stating lack of jurisdiction. Where can I file a defamation of character in Texas?

Defamation cases are usually complicated and need skill and expertise to handle and defend. Due to this reason, they are usually filed in a higher court such as a district or county court. Small claim courts are meant to handle less complicated or minor cases which are limited in size and scope. Very few small claim courts handle defamation cases and in most scenarios defamation cases are beyond their jurisdiction. Laws may vary from state to state.

Dealing with criticism is something that everyone finds difficult to do but if it is false and malicious in nature, intentionally done to harm your reputation, it can cause more emotional trauma and sometimes financial loss. Even if the statements are false, to re-build a reputation in the community is a delicate process. This is when defamation of character law can come to your rescue to possibly make good any financial loss and work toward rebuilding your reputation.
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Recent Defamation of Character Questions

  • I would like more information about defamation of character

    I would like more information about defamation of character in the workplace. My employer has demoted me due to complaints that are false. These complaints were never investigated before being documented, they were shared with upper management and the decision to demote me was made without myself ever being made aware of the complaints or being able to defend myself. Further, these same 'complaints' happen routinely with others but do not result in documentation of demotion with those employees. Human resources has ignored my calls for four weeks now. There is a large group of employees who want to write a letter on my behalf to the directors of the company but I'm not sure if that would help or cause more trouble.
  • I have a question about slander, defamation of character or

    I have a question about slander, defamation of character or similar claims.

    Background: I had a tenant in my townhouse in New York. I had to evict him after not paying rent for five months. He agreed, in court, after claiming he didn't have money to pay because he bought a house to pay the back rent over 12 months. He didn't do so.

    The day I got to enter the property I took my real estate agent with me as a witness. I took a picture of the morning's newspaper before entering. Upon entering I met total devastation of the unit. Filth everywhere. Starting in the kitchen the new molded sink had a cigarette burn and was stained beyond repair, the microwave was burnt out, The dryer was unplugged. I found out that the lint filter was broken and the unit and ducts were filled with lint. There was burnt lint all around the burner. The laundry door was ripped off it's hinges. There was more damage there. Upon entering the next room I found the carpeting filthy and stained beyond repair. I could go on but it cost me over $30,000 to put the place back into sellable condition.

    After they failed to make any payment I notified them that they were in default. His wife replied that he has collected signatures that I has collected signatures that I told people of the damage he caused and that has hurt his business. Indeed I did tell neighbors and they saw the damage. I intend to pursue collection all though I doubt that I will be successful. (I found a letter in the house that he owes thousands of dollars of child support).

    My question is does he have any claim against me for telling/showing neighbors what he did and how he skipped out on rent?
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    Is there a way to sue a principal of a school for harassment of a student with disabilities and defamation of character and not sue the whole school district. They've already been sued, class action suit, and lost, but I was not a part of that suit. Daughter has suffered greatly and had to have lots of therapy to deal with negative impact at school. She is an honors student, but was told she had too many disabilities to be at the school after having brain surgery for epilepsy.
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