Has anyone made false or misleading statements about you to someone else?

Whether such statements are oral or written, if they cause harm to you, then you may have the right to sue the person who made those statements.

False statements made orally are called slander.

False statements made in writing are called libel.

To give rise to a claim, the false statement must be made or given to a third party—that is, someone other than you and the person making the statement.

Even if false, a statement about you is not defamatory unless it tends to hurt your reputation by

  • lowering your esteem in the eyes of your community, or
  • making other persons avoid associating or dealing with you,
  • exposing you to public hatred, contempt, ridicule, or financial harm,
  • disparage your honesty, integrity, or virtue, or
  • harm you in your office, profession, or occupation.

Public officers and public figures are handled differently than “regular people” and their burden of proving defamation is heavier.

Truth is an absolute defense.

If you believe you have been defamed, gather the following information and see a lawyer as soon as possible:

  1. Who and what are you—what’s your position or role in the community?
  2. What was said or written?
  3. Who said or wrote it?
  4. To whom was it said or published?
  5. When and where was it said or published.
  6. Any other facts about the person who made or wrote the statement and the circumstances surrounding it.