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Defamation (Libel / Slander)

Defamation, Libel and Slander are all interrelated concepts involving personal injury to one's reputation. Libel and slander are both forms of the larger concept of defamation. Although the elements of both forms of defamation are almost identical to one and other, the key difference with the two is the fact that libel refers to defamation that can be seen whereas slander consists of oral defamatory communications.

Special rules are accorded to defamation involving public officials or public figures, where the communication is about a matter of public concern.


Recently in Defamation (Libel / Slander) Category

For parents and school kids, the thought of being cyberbullied can be frightening, and knowing what to do when it happens can be confusing and difficult.

One Texas parent, after his son was subjected to cruel cyberbullying that turned into a big problem at school, has turned to the newly enacted David's Law, and filed a lawsuit against the cyberbullies and their parents.

Another former staffer has dirt to spill on President Donald Trump. And the president again promises legal action, claiming the staffer violated a confidentiality agreement. While Trump is notorious for threatening lawsuits that never materialize, and his administration's non-disclosure agreements have been deemed potentially unenforceable and illegal, could this be the time that Trump actually sues, and the alleged NDA is enforced?

Here's a look.

Couple Sues Costco for $4M in Racial Profiling Case

Shopping While Black. It's a phenomena most Americans don't experience, purely by the coincidence of their skin color. As scientists unearth more reasoning behind unconscious bias, retailers are being pressed to confront the epidemic and take action, or risk being sued. That's the dilemma now in front of Costco, after an African American couple sued the retailer for $4 million, claiming Costco tipped off police to pull them over for shoplifting, merely because "they fit the bill."

Elon Musk is extremely online. The Tesla founder and CEO has never been shy on Twitter, so it's no surprise he jumped into the discussion concerning the rescue of 12 Thai boys who had become trapped in a cave last month. Musk had offered his help during the rescue, visiting the site and ordering his employees to build a "kid-size submarine" that rescue officials determined was "not practical for our mission" and declined to use.

One of the divers who did play a key role in the rescue, Vernon Unsworth, called the submarine a "PR stunt" that "just had absolutely no chance of working," adding that Musk could "stick his submarine where it hurts." Musk responded immediately and, perhaps, illegally: "We will make one (video) of the mini-sub/pod going all the way to Cave 5 no problem. Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it." The tweet was deleted, but American and British lawyers have already contacted Unsworth about a possible defamation claim against Musk.

Alex Jones doesn't get a whole lot of things right, especially when it comes to school shootings. Earlier this month, Jones and his InfoWars website were sued for defamation after misidentifying an innocent teenager from Massachusetts as the Parkland, Florida shooter.

This week, Jones has been sued by families of victims from another school shooting about which the conspiracy peddler has theories. Parents of two children slain in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut in 2012 filed separate defamation lawsuits against Jones, claiming his insistence that the shooting was staged and the parents are actors has tormented them for years.

When to Sue for Defamation of Character

With all this talk about snowflakes, freedom of speech, hate speech, etc. it can be difficult to know what you can and can't say, and what your rights are when it comes to what others say about you. These days, it seems like a mere mention of the weather will offend somebody. But when does offense cross over into defamation? When are someone's words so injurious to your reputation that you can sue them for it? While it varies somewhat from state to state, there are some helpful guidelines for knowing when to sue someone for defamation of character.

When Can Sexual Assault Survivors Sue for Defamation?

Being a victim of sexual assault is bad enough, but finally finding the courage to speak up and then being called a liar -- or worse -- by the person who assaulted you, is even worse. There may, however, be a recourse for these types of circumstances. Women who have survived a sexual assault have been turning to defamation lawsuits to fight back against their attackers.

In many instances, this is not only to clear their own name but also because the statute of limitations for filing a civil claim of sexual assault has passed. And while not every attacker who has called his or her victim a liar will win a defamation lawsuit, it's a viable option for sexual assault survivors who think they can prove the elements of defamation.

Those that ascribe to the "any PR is good PR" mantra might be tempted to tell a model that any use of her image would be a good use. But what about a use that implies she is HIV positive?

That happened to model Avril Nolan after New York's Division of Human Rights ran a full-color, quarter-page ad featuring her face, beside the words "I am positive (+)" and "I have rights," all without her permission. Nolan sued, claiming the ad was defamatory and that the DHR violated state civil rights laws. And a state appeals court agreed, with the defamation part at least.

As you may have heard by now, journalist Michael Wolf's "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" has caused quite a stir. The president was not too pleased with the work, and lawyers for Trump and the book's publisher traded some entertaining letters over it. (And, of course, Trump tweeted.)

As they have so often done throughout his business and political career, Trump's lawyers threatened the author and publisher with a defamation lawsuit. What Trump has not-so-often done, however, is follow through on those threats. If he did this time, what legal issues might be in play?

Frequently, when individuals ask what their injury cases are worth, they are surprised to learn that there is no way for an attorney to answer that question without having access to accurate fortune tellers. Since fortune telling is all a hoax (if it weren't, there'd be a lot more lottery winners), this means that really knowing what a case is worth is impossible until it's over.

Simply put, there are too many variables that go into a case's value. However, one rule of thumb that seems to hold true is that the larger the injury, the larger the award. In the context of defamation, this means that to get a big verdict, the victim must have suffered a major reputational harm, or lost significant income or revenues, as a result of the defamatory statement.