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LEGAL DICTIONARY

Slander

What Is Slander?

The legal definition of slander is a false oral statement made against another party with the intent of harming their reputation.

Slander is considered a form of defamation, and the injured party can pursue legal action against it. Slander falls under tort law, so slander cases are considered a matter for the civil courts.

How to Prove Slander

Proving slander can be challenging in court. In order to win a civil suit, the injured party must be able to demonstrate the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • the statements were false
  • the party making the statements (the slanderer) knew they were false yet presented them as facts
  • the statements were made with malice

A successful civil lawsuit brought typically results in the slanderer paying monetary compensation for the harm caused by the false statements. The harm may include:

  • The plaintiff’s mental pain and suffering
  • Damaged reputation
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of the ability to earn a living

Slander vs. Libel

According to tort law, defamation includes libel and slander. Slander differs from libel in that libel is a false written statement, whereas slander is information presented verbally.

Although TV, radio, and online news broadcasts typically involve spoken words, false statements in these forms of media are considered libelous, not slanderous. Libelous statements also can be found in newspapers, magazines, blogs, and chat rooms.

Each state varies somewhat in its standards for defamation and the damages that can be awarded in a successful civil lawsuit.

Slander and the First Amendment

Although the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to free speech, it does not mean Americans can knowingly say or write false information about someone else.

However, the line between stating an opinion versus stating a fact can sometimes be vague, especially when it comes to upholding the freedom of the press.

The bottom line is that while there is no such thing as a false opinion, the First Amendment does not protect slander, or the making of blatantly false statements that harm the reputation of others.

Example of a Slander Lawsuit

In 2004, television and film actor David Schwimmer, best known for his role on TV’s “Friends”, filed a $2 million slander lawsuit against a fundraiser who accused him of making expensive demands before appearing at a 1997 charity event.

Schwimmer accused Aaron Tonken of publicly stating that Schwimmer demanded two Rolex watches as payment for appearing at a fundraiser. Schwimmer claimed the false allegations damaged his reputation. The court ruled in favor of the actor and awarded him $400,000 in damages as compensation.

As we see here, he proved the points discussed previously and won the case. This is why it is vital to guard against saying things that could be classified as slander and avoid these potential lawsuits.

Helpful Resources:

Cornell Law - Slander

Investopedia - Slander

Constitutional Law Reporter - First Amendment

Los Angeles Times - TV Actor Wins Defamation Suit

What Is Slander?

The legal definition of slander is a false oral statement made against another party with the intent of harming their reputation.

Slander is considered a form of defamation, and the injured party can pursue legal action against it. Slander falls under tort law, so slander cases are considered a matter for the civil courts.

How to Prove Slander

Proving slander can be challenging in court. In order to win a civil suit, the injured party must be able to demonstrate the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • the statements were false
  • the party making the statements (the slanderer) knew they were false yet presented them as facts
  • the statements were made with malice

A successful civil lawsuit brought typically results in the slanderer paying monetary compensation for the harm caused by the false statements. The harm may include:

  • The plaintiff’s mental pain and suffering
  • Damaged reputation
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of the ability to earn a living

Slander vs. Libel

According to tort law, defamation includes libel and slander. Slander differs from libel in that libel is a false written statement, whereas slander is information presented verbally.

Although TV, radio, and online news broadcasts typically involve spoken words, false statements in these forms of media are considered libelous, not slanderous. Libelous statements also can be found in newspapers, magazines, blogs, and chat rooms.

Each state varies somewhat in its standards for defamation and the damages that can be awarded in a successful civil lawsuit.

Slander and the First Amendment

Although the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to free speech, it does not mean Americans can knowingly say or write false information about someone else.

However, the line between stating an opinion versus stating a fact can sometimes be vague, especially when it comes to upholding the freedom of the press.

The bottom line is that while there is no such thing as a false opinion, the First Amendment does not protect slander, or the making of blatantly false statements that harm the reputation of others.

Example of a Slander Lawsuit

In 2004, television and film actor David Schwimmer, best known for his role on TV’s “Friends”, filed a $2 million slander lawsuit against a fundraiser who accused him of making expensive demands before appearing at a 1997 charity event.

Schwimmer accused Aaron Tonken of publicly stating that Schwimmer demanded two Rolex watches as payment for appearing at a fundraiser. Schwimmer claimed the false allegations damaged his reputation. The court ruled in favor of the actor and awarded him $400,000 in damages as compensation.

As we see here, he proved the points discussed previously and won the case. This is why it is vital to guard against saying things that could be classified as slander and avoid these potential lawsuits.

Helpful Resources:

Cornell Law - Slander

Investopedia - Slander

Constitutional Law Reporter - First Amendment

Los Angeles Times - TV Actor Wins Defamation Suit