Is Your Case Considered Defamation or Slander?

We often receive phone calls from people asking us whether or not they have a defamation or slander case. Oftentimes people use the two terms interchangeably. These terms are different when we get down to it.

Defamation requires someone say something defamatory about you and that it is publicized and that publication has caused you some sort of injury. If the defamatory statements are about a matter of public concern then the defamatory statements need to be false, and you need to show fault on the behalf of the defendant. In most cases one does not need to prove falsity, specifically at common law. Defamatory language is language that has a negative impact on one’s reputation or persona. Simply calling a person a derogatory name is not defamation.

Now here’s where it gets confusing to some people, people often use libel and slander interchangeably. Slander is the spoken word of defamation. Libel is the written or publicized defamatory language. If the injured party is in a minority and someone publicizes defamatory language about them it is libel per se.

The term publication means when someone produces defamatory language in some sort of means of communication to a person other than the plaintiff. The publication can be done intentionally or negligently. The only thing the plaintiff needs to prove is that the defendant intended to publish that information. Each time the publication is reproduced it is counted as a separate publication. So for example, if you were to share something on Facebook about someone that was defamatory you may be liable for how many other people share that.

This is important for a damages calculation. In traditional cases we normally look at newspapers magazines or TV stations, today we tend to see more cases involving social media. The injured party must also show that they suffered some sort of damages. In a slander case the plaintiff must show that they suffered a specific type of damage, namely that they have suffered some sort of monetary or money based a loss in order to make any sort of case.


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