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Slander Laws

Slander laws are in place to deter someone from defaming another person by the spoken word. Slander laws differ from those laws pertaining to libel, in that libel is written defamation of character and slander is spoken defamation.

 

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According to most slander laws, the highest level of defense against a slander claim is the "truth" as defined by the courts. Another defense to defamation actions is "privilege".

For example, statements made by witnesses in court, arguments made in court by lawyers, statements by legislators on the floor of the legislature, or by judges while sitting on the bench, are ordinarily privileged, and cannot support a cause of action for defamation, no matter how false or outrageous.

Most jurisdictions also recognize "opinion" as a logical defense. A person's opinion has to be clearly separated from the assertion of fact. For instance, if someone you just met, who knows nothing about you calls you a "deadbeat" this most likely will be regarded as opinion since it has no basis in fact. A few jurisdictions, though, have eliminated the distinction between opinion and fact and in this case one must be well aware of the slander laws that prevail in a particular location.

According to most slander laws there is another defense similar to "opinion," which is "fair comment on a matter of public interest". If the governor is allegedly involved in some sort of kickback scheme or other form of corruption and you say that you believe this to be true, a slander suit will not hold water in court.

Most slander laws also recognize "innocent dissemination" as a defense as well. According to "innocent dissemination" a defendant may unknowingly transmit a slanderous statement and not be held liable such as misinformation thought to be true on a ham radio.

In New York Times vs. Sullivan, the courts decided that public figures have the added burden of proving a statement to be slanderous by including "actual malice". False statements may be made about public figures, but if a judge or jury decides that no "actual malice" has taken place then no slander has occurred.

Not all slander laws are about defaming people. Food slander laws are even in place in about 10 states, which make it a crime to defame food products without a scientific basis. A group called Pure Foods Campaign (PFC), decided to rebel in Georgian in Boston Tea Party fashion and dump Diet Coke, NutraSweet (aspartame) and rBGH-enhanced milk onto the pavement in protest. The constitutionality of such food slander laws though is in question.

Slander and libel are both under the umbrella of defamation of character. Defamation of character is considered to be a personal injury. If the defamed party actually gave permission for the statements to be made, there is no defamation. If, however, no permission was given, then an injured party may be entitled to recover damages for loss of earnings capacity, pain and suffering, and reasonable medical expenses, including both current and projected future losses.

Slander laws may differ somewhat from state to state so it is important to check your locale's specific laws whether you're plaintiff or defendant in such a case.

See Defamation of Character

See Definition of Libel


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

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