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Frankq81

Defamation and Libel

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I am curious about a situation. A friend of mine has confided in me that someone she knows used a date rape drug and violated her. She refused to go to the police because she feels they don't care about the victim. Through facebook I located the person and found he is associated with several people I know. 

I feel I should warn them of this person, and to simply be weary via text message. Would this count as Libel if it gets back to said person? 

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Reason I say Libel is because it would more than likely be in a text message of some kind as that is normally the fastest way to contact someone nowadays. Libel is printed word while slander is oral messages if I understand that correctly. 

It wouldn't be blast across facebook in a post or on a twitter feed or anything like that. 

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Hi @Frankq81

 

Welcome to the community and thanks for posting! The torts of slander and libel fall under defamation, and you are correct that slander involves oral statements while libel involves written statements. The elements are the same for both:

  1. Someone made a statement;
  2. that statement was published;
  3. the statement caused injury;
  4. the statement was false; and
  5. the statement did not fall into a privileged category.

 

Check out this article about the elements of libel and slander for a more in-depth explanation. However, you should also know that truth is a defense to libel and slander.

 

Let us know if you have additional questions!

The FindLaw.com Team

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Right, truth is a defense, unfortunately in a situation like rape, it is he said she said, until the cops are actually called in. 

I am wondering if just sending someone a text saying... "hey, I was told that so and so did X, just be weary around them in case " is considered defamation by libel? 

I don't know if it is true, but if it is I don't want anyone else I know to get hurt. I don't know nor care about the person who did it in either way. If I could convince my friend to go to the police I would. There is no malice... it is not a blast post or video. I am not interfering with their business or as far as I can tell their standing in the community because it would be a private message to maybe 4 people. 

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23 minutes ago, Frankq81 said:

Would this count as Libel if it gets back to said person?

 

Whether or not it "gets back to said person" has nothing to do with whether or not it's libel.  Defamation is a false statement of fact (not opinion) about another person that is made or disseminated to at least one person other than the subject of the statement.  Generally, the plaintiff must prove damages, but that's typically not the case where the statement falsely accuses the subject of criminal activity.  As you noted, libel is written defamation, and slander is spoken defamation.  All that being said, whether or not you would be defaming this person depends on what exactly you say and whether or not it's true.

 

Seeing as how you have no personal knowledge of this matter, you need to think about whether you trust your friend enough to pay -- and whether this sort of gossip is worth paying -- thousands of dollars for an attorney to defend you if you get sued because of this (to say nothing of the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars you might have to pay if you find out your friend made up this story or can't prove that its true and you lose such a lawsuit -- keeping in mind that a judgment for defamation might not be dischargeable in bankruptcy and thus might follow you for the rest of your life).

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3 minutes ago, Frankq81 said:

I am wondering if just sending someone a text saying... "hey, I was told that so and so did X, just be weary around them in case " is considered defamation by libel?

 

If "so and so did X" is not true, then yes, it's defamation.  It doesn't matter that you're merely repeating something you were told (and, indeed, in some cases, that can be worse).

 

 

5 minutes ago, Frankq81 said:

I am not interfering with their business or as far as I can tell their standing in the community because it would be a private message to maybe 4 people.

 

Each of whom might repeat it to many, many more people (if you're old enough, you might remember a shampoo commercial from the early 80's:  "and she told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on").  Once the statement is made, you have no control over how widely it is further disseminated.  And, by the way, dissemination of defamatory matter to four people is more than sufficient to damage someone's standing in the community -- potentially.

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