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Slander vs. Libel: Defamation Law Explained by Your Personal Injury Attorney in Denver


June 13, 2018

You may have heard of the terms slander and libel and knew they had something to do with spreading false information. But were you sure what the differences were? In the court of law these two terms, while similar, have two very specific meanings. There are also several other terms that fall under this branch of law known as “defamation law.” Learn more what each of these terms means and when you may need to contact your go-to personal injury attorney in Denver to see if you have a case.

Defamation Laws

While American citizens have freedom of speech, when a person makes untrue statements about another that are damaging to their reputation, defamation occurs. Defamation is known as a “tort,” which is a civil offense. It is a particular act done by a person that leads to harm, whether that be an injury or other negative effects that fall under the personal injury umbrella.

Tort laws are in place to help a person recover anything lost after harm is done, whether that be money, their reputation, or wellbeing. These actions can be both intentional or unintentional, covering issues such as negligence, wrongful death, or slander/libel.

When it comes to slander and libel as defamation laws, a person with a damaged reputation can work with their local attorney to sue the offending party for damages. Defamation protects those who have truly been damaged, but still keeps first amendment rights intact. Defamation laws vary state by state.As such, Colorado has their own specific slander and libel laws. While all laws may be similar, the fine details are laid out separately.

Colorado

For Colorado, defamation laws stem from the 1994 case Keohane v. Steward, 882 P. 2d 1293.  The case found that defamation is a type of untrue statement that causes a person to experience damage to their reputation or even physical injury. When it comes to the different types of defamation, the focus is slander and libel.

In order for a person to be tried for slander or libel in Colorado, either of these acts must have been done in a public manner by one person, hence causing harm to another person. For instance, just by having a conversation with another person, calling them names, or saying certain offending things to them, it may not result in a defamation case. More may need to occur.

Also, there does not need to be direct intent for a person to be accused of slander or libel. A person can unintentionally publish content or say something publicly, but if harm is caused, a case can be made.  

Slander: Spoken Defamation

The definition of slander is a type of defamation that occurs in spoken form. This means a person has made a false statement about a person that has been damaging to their character and reputation. This can occur as something said in a public speech or online videos such as an upload to YouTube or Facebook. The only time laws can chance to include true statements is when information is shared without permission. Slander can also be used if a person shares personal details about a person that are not meant for public knowledge.

Example: Todd is jealous of his coworker Jeff. Jeff recently received a promotion that the two were competing for. Todd’s anger gets the best of him and he begins to spread false rumors that Jeff paid their boss Kathleen to receive the raise and hints the two may have had an affair. Word begins to spread around their company and eventually outside of the company. This is a prestigious role and begins to become problematic in their community and to Todd’s significant other.

Libel: Written Defamation

A person has a libel defamation case when a false statement has been written about the person. This can happen in actual writing or online, such as a blog, post, comment, or more. In addition, libel can be via a communication with another person in writing. Libel can be used if a written statement is then spoken via a video, audio, or in-person format. In many situations, libel has tended to be more harmful than slander because it is in publication forever. However, with the rise of social media and video, slander can be just as negative—if not more in some scenarios.

Example: Jessica is angered at recent actions taken by a local representative, John, of her community. She decides to start chatter on her blog and social media that the representative used taxpayer money to fund a recent extravagant trip he and his family took to Hawaii. This statement is not true. The closer the town gets to the election, the more this rumor spreads. The town becomes angered and more rumors pile on. John loses the election.

When You Have a Case

There are a few bases of defamation law that a premier attorney will need in order for a case to be made. These include having some form of false, defaming statement that has been shared with the public. It must be proven that the person making the statement knew it was not true and could hurt the person’s reputation, or in the case of slander if personal information that was private was shared. It is best to talk through with your attorney to see if the statement falls in line with the law. Last, there must be a base and proof of how the statements damaged a person. Once a case has all these conditions, a case can be filed. This qualifies even if a person provides doubt something may be true but spreads the false statement anyway. So, the lesson to be learned: Don’t spread rumors. Even if you are passing on from someone else. You can ruin your own reputation whether you intend to harm another’s or not.

Are you wondering if you have a defamation case? Mark A. Simon will not only ensure you understand terms you know after a personal injury in Denver and help you explore your case. This top Denver attorney will provide you a quality experience to walk you through every step of your case to help you recover your reputation. Call 303-321-HURT for your free consultation.