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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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