Defamation and slander

Discussion in 'Open Discussions' started by HalcyonStables, Jul 22, 2011.

  1. I was thinking about this the other day and I know a couple of Stockies have OH's that are lawyers, and I thought some people might have personal experiences to share.

    What exactly is slander and defamation and what happens in a case?

    I mean, if I write on my personal diary here at home "ABC is a stupid idiot and should never be allowed near a horse because she whipped one yesterday." and the fact is totally false, is that slander? However if it's TRUE is it still slander?

    If I write the same thing on a public forum and it's false, obviously that would be slander. If it was TRUE is it slander and could ABC basically sue me' for damages to their reputation?

    If instead I wrote on a public forum "I saw a stupid cow whip her horse yesterday, she should never have horses." on a public forum and the person I am referring to realizes it's her I am referring to because they saw me when the incident occurred, would they have a case if they decided to persue it even though no name or address or details identifying the horse or person is released?

    Can you be done for defamation if the facts are correct? Ie on x date at approx x time I witnessed x person striking their horse x amount of times with their whip.

    Is it slander if it is gossip or rumour? Said by word of mouth or only if it's written (ie more solid proof than "I heard", "so and so said" or "I saw" verbally?

    It seems these days as soon as anyone sees something or hears something they don't like about themselves they scream for their lawyer to file a suit.

    So what exactly is slander and defamation? Does anyone know? Or does anyone know a website with the correct legal information regarding this?

    Purely out of interest, I hear about it a lot, but know very little about it.
  2. jumpingeventer

    jumpingeventer Well-known Member

    -I thought this was an interesting site, especially the part about "Who can sue" and "Who can be sued and liable".

    Australian Defamation Laws and the Internet

    I think it comes down to if it has an impact on the person ie. loss of business.

    In your examples, you writing in your diary can't really be used as slander/defamation however if you were to rant on stockies naming a certain person OR possibly not even naming them BUT ensuring that everyone "knows" who they are...well, then they could sue. Especially if they are a trainer or business person.

    However in the case of animal abuse you could then possibly seek help from the RSPCA and you may have a counter case?

    I'm not a lawyer but did a bit of legal studies at school...would be interested to hear if I'm right or wrong LOL.
  3. So you're saying that anything that publicly identifies the person and damages their reputation even if the comments written are absolutely true, is grounds for a defamation case?

    By publicly identifying I mean either actually saying/writing their name or say business name, or giving big obvious clues as to who they are such as street name, address, identifying markers such as appearance or name of the horse they were riding etc.

    How do the tabloids get away with the crap they write then, and I'm surprised convicted crims aren't suing the police left, right and centre Orr releasing their names to the media when they're charged etc LOL
  4. Cav

    Cav Gold Member

    What is defamation?At its simplest, defamation is to spread bad reports about someone which could do them harm.

    The verb is to defame. You can defame someone if you say something false about them which spoils their good reputation, which makes people want to avoid them or which hurts them in their work or their profession.

    To defame someone, you do not have to make up false things yourself. You might defame a person by repeating or replaying words spoken by someone else, for example an interviewee. It is no defence to claim that you were only quoting someone else. If you print or broadcast something defamatory, you could be taken to court, along with your producer, your editor or station manager and the person who said the words in the first place.

    Slander is a form of defamation:
    slander [ˈslɑːndə]
    1. (Law) Law
    a. defamation in some transient form, as by spoken words, gestures, etc.
    b. a slanderous statement, etc.
    2. any false or defamatory words spoken about a person; calumny
    to utter or circulate slander (about)
    [via Anglo-French from Old French escandle, from Late Latin scandalum a cause of offence; see scandal]
    slanderer n
    slanderous adj
    slanderously adv
    slanderousness n

    Also someone would have to prove in court you were defaming them or being slanderous about them.

    It would probably cost someone about $5000 just to get the case to court in legal fees.

    Most of the time proving defamation is difficult and often dismissed as merely hearsay. Depends on whats being said and who said it.
  5. Cav

    Cav Gold Member

    In a nutshell yes.
  6. Ok so according to what youve written, Cav it says "You can defame someone if you say something false abiut them..." etc

    Does that mean then its only slander or defamation if it is false information? So if the information is factual and true, it is not slander or defamation?
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 22, 2011
  7. Cav

    Cav Gold Member

  8. izzy2512

    izzy2512 Gold Member

    Cav covered what I was going to say :D
  9. Cav

    Cav Gold Member

    great minds think alike izzy :)*

    Hope its not too serious merrylegs. :eek:
  10. LOL no I don't have any outstanding cases but I hear about threats of them all the time so thought I'd be interested to find out more. Thanks!
  11. jumpingeventer

    jumpingeventer Well-known Member

    From what I understand and from what Cav says, it's just too expensive to sue unless, of course, you are suffering huge losses of profit etc. and can justify spending the thousands upon thousands of dollars it costs to sue.

    A little OT but it cost my OH and his parents about 30K to sue someone who sold them 2 blocks before the big boom. In the middle of signing paperwork, the property market soared and he decided he wanted twice as much as the original agreed price. Some of the other people buying blocks couldn't afford to sue but OH, his folks and a handful of other affected parties all banded together and sued him. Got the blocks at the original price but the case was in court for a long time, about a year I think. And cost them a lot of money HOWEVER about a year later we sold the block and managed to make enough money off of it to get into our first house so it worked out for us. I can't remember what happened but I'm pretty sure most of the group sued him again for legal costs etc.

    I think the papers toe a very fine line. Look at Derren Hinch, going to jail because he named and shamed sex offenders...a lot of people think he was perfectly justified in what he did.
  12. Cav

    Cav Gold Member

    jumpingeventer yes it costs lots to sue someone and you would have to have solid evidence/proof that there was ie: loss of income or damage to reputation for example someone claims a doctor molested they sue them and doctor is cleared of the charge but their reputation is then damage so they can seek damages/compensation. Im not a lawyer but its all there on the internet. Someone apparently was threatening to sue me once for something I never even said! Had a good laugh about that one.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2011
  13. lollyem

    lollyem Well-known Member

    The reason tabloids get away with it is that it is up to the person being defamed ( and when it is in print it is actually "libel", as opposed to "slander" , the spoken word) to pursue the case and I read once that you need to start with about a million dollars to chase a case to the end. That's why only the richest , like celebrities, etc are seen to win slander/libel cases.

    America on the other hand has more relaxed laws - if what you say is actually true, there are usually no grounds for defamation. Case in point is the Fugly Horse of the Day blog - she can print names and dates and because what she says is actually true, she is not able to be sued (Though gets threatened all the time, much to her amusement) Unlike here, where even if it is true, if it damages the reputation and hence livelihood of the allegedly defamed person, they still have grounds to sue you.
  14. See now I am confused. The material you guys have posted for me says that defamation is FALSE information being spread around, and that truth is a defense.

    However you guys are saying a case can be brought against somebody even if they're telling the truth. Which is it?
  15. Ozzies_Girl

    Ozzies_Girl Well-known Member

    If someone writes "she's mean she neglects her horses" that person can be sued but with the defence of 'triviality' meaning it hasn't made a negative impact on her life. it will be thrown straight out of court. If you say "she's mean she neglects her horses- here are photos for proof!" and you actually have photos of their horses in bad condition your defence is 'justification', that doesn't mean the statement has to be proved to be exactly true - only that the gist of it is true.

    **ETA*** A case can be brought against anyone but that doesn't mean that they are going to get anywhere with it. If I tell you now that you're mean, you could sue me for slander...however you would just be wasting your money paying for a lawyer because it would be thrown out on my defence of triviality. I was just talking about this point the other day on forbidden site group ;)
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2011
  16. lollyem

    lollyem Well-known Member

    The plaintiff must be able to show that the defamatory matter could reasonably be taken to be about him or her. It is a question of whether an ordinary reasonable person having knowledge of the relevant circumstances would read the material as referring to the plaintiff. This is most easily satisfied when the publication actually names the plaintiff. However, there is no need for the plaintiff to be expressly named. It is enough that the publication is made to persons with knowledge of other facts which would reasonably enable them to identify the plaintiff.
  17. EVP

    EVP Gold Member

    You can only sue someone who has assets. If they have nothing there is nothing to "sue" for - except a retraction....which in most cases does and means nothing.

    Can't get blood from a stone......that is why people act like they do - they've got nothing to loose (either reputation or assets).
    Having 'nothing' is a great security blanket and allows people to do just about anything that doesn't result in a prison sentence.
  18. blitzen

    blitzen Gold Member

    my brain is working hard to recall here, but it also has to do with AUDIENCE. for instance, you can say at an intimate dinner party XYZ is a rotten cow who does abc to their horse, and face no legal ramifications.

    but if you say it at a PARTY with over 20 ppl there, you risk being accused of Slander (speaking ill). if you WRITE it (libel) to one person (in a private FB convo, for example, or a letter) then that's entirely different to posting something on your wall with an audience of 100+ ppl.

    and then it's a whole new barrel of fish if the person you are having a private msn convo with goes and broadcasts it to a much wider audience!

    also, the manner in which it is broadcast is also very important. IMO, using the example you quoted of saying "I saw XYZ hitting her horse X amount of times on the 5th of July at 3pm" would not, to me, be libelous. compared to if you said, "I saw that effing cow, XYZ, beating the crap out of her horse".

    also, the nature of the person comes into question. ie, saying publicly, "i saw [insert super famous person's name] take her undies off in public & she seems like a complete skanky hoe" would IMO elicit a VERY SWIFT response from her media team, compared to if you publicly announced on your fb wall to ur 1500 friends, "i saw Mrs smith from down the road take her undies off in public and wave them about". has to do with the amount of damage & loss of reputation. can't LOSE a reputation if you don't have one to start with.

    and to answer your question, truth IS a defence! if it's true, it ain't defamatory. but if the WAY in which you spread the truth, and the audience to whom you presented it, further damaged one's reputation than JUST the truth, then i think there are grounds for a civil courtcase.

    (and i'm not a lawyer & have no background in law, but i did media, law & ethics very long ago, so i'm mostly speaking from a journalistic perspective)
  19. Okie dokie, I understand now, thanks for helping clarify that.
  20. lollyem

    lollyem Well-known Member

    Even if what you have said is true, and even if the claim is silly, this doesn't mean they can't sue. They may not win, but you don't want to be tied up in court for the next 5 years .

    From The Bush Lawyer's Guide to Avoiding Being Sued for Defamation
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2011

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