Slander

Defamation is the act of issuing an injurious statement against an individual, group, business, religion or nation in an attempt to damage their reputation and negatively affect their public image. This statement can be communicated in two ways:

  • Oral
  • Written

What is Slander?

When the defamatory statement is conveyed orally or verbally, in order to damage any person’s standing in their community or to harm their reputation, it is termed as Slander. It is important to distinguish between Slander and Libel as the latter incorporates defamation through broadcast or written medium.

The Law and Slander

Slander is usually not a criminal crime, however it is can be a legally actionable offense that is liable to lawsuits. However, damages are a crucial point to prove in cases of slander. Since the alleged defamation is verbal in nature, it is challenging to produce evidence. Therefore, the monetary consideration is paid only for the actual damages. Also known as special damages, they are paid in order to redress monetary loss caused as a result of the slander offence.

However, if the intention of the offender is malicious, then the damages to be paid are likely to be higher. Malicious intent is usually liable for general damages. These cover the distress, harassment or mental/emotional trauma caused by the offence.

Examples of Slander

Malicious intent is accompanied by an intentional effort to damage a person’s reputation. This includes the following types of statements:

  • Attacking an individual’s professional image
  • Accusing an individual of unfair trade practices
  • Accusing individuals of committing adultery
  • Accusing an individual of being affected or infected by an STD
  • Accusing an individual of sexual assault or any other crime of moral connotations

The only way a defendant in a slander case can protect themselves is by showing the alleged slander is false. The only absolute defense in a slander case is the truth. This means that the plaintiff could not have been defamed by a statement which is actually true. The statements made in a court of law by a legislator, lawyer, witness or judge (also known as privileged statements) – are not covered under defamation law. This implies that slander or defamation cannot be charged against any privilege statements.

Proving Slander

Slander is considerably challenging to prove in a court of law. Unless there is a case where defamation has led to great general and monetary damage, suing any party for slander is not the most preferred alternative. Since the offence is difficult to prove, it is also a cumbersome task to win lawsuits. An important factor to consider here is the risk of image associated with the case. If the plaintiff loses the slander case, then people are likely to believe that the defamatory statement issued against them was true, even though it may be far from the truth.

Another point to consider is the monetary compensation. The legal fees that get accumulated by the time trial ends may be more than the damages awarded by the court. Hence, not all case may be financially feasible.