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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Attorney
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Experience:  Lawyer
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We are curious if we have grounds for a lawsuit of slander

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We are curious if we have grounds for a lawsuit of slander against a family whose son, along with his parents, are making false accusations against our 15 year old son. Our son is being accused of bullying by this teenager who has a reputation of similar accusations against others without any proof or witnesses. The parents of this boy have gone to the administration of our son's new high school to paint a picture of our son which is completely inaccurate and is character assassination. I would like to know a course of action as allowing this situation to "go away on its own" is obviously futile.

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'd be happy to answer your questions today.

Slander is any untrue statement of fact that tends to harm the reputation of the person about whom the statement is made. Allegations that a person has committed a crime are defamation per se - that means that reputational harm will be presumed. Bullying tends to include assault, battery, threats and other harassment, so a bullying allegation can include criminal conduct. That means that your son may have a claim against the boy for making these comments.

The parents are not automatically liable for false statements made by their child. However, if they repeated the statements, they could be liable if they knew that the statements were false or were reckless in determining whether the statements are true or false. That's the standard if a judge finds that bullying is a matter of public concern (which seems likely). If you can argue successfully that this is not a matter of public concern, you would only have to show that they made the statements, regardless of whether they believed them to be true.

The first step in this situation is often to send a "cease and desist" letter. The parents will likely take it more seriously if it is sent by certified mail, especially if it is written by a local attorney. The other option is for your son to file a lawsuit seeking damage to his reputation. A parent can file on behalf of a child "as next friend," but your son would be the plaintiff (unless they are also making comments about you). A person can seek up to $3,000 in Small Claims Court. If your damages are more than that, you may want to sit down with a local attorney who can help evaluate the case.

If you have any questions or concerns about what I've written, please reply so that I may address them. It's important to me that you are 100% satisfied with the service I provide. Otherwise, please rate my service positively so that I get credit for answering your question. Thank you.
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