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What’s the Difference Between Libel, Slander, and Malicious Falsehood?

While the law protects the right of free speech, this right is not absolute. An individual or an organization that makes false statements can face a civil lawsuit from those affected by the untruths. newspaper-1531674

Laws related to libel, slander, and malicious falsehood are all examples of legal doctrines that give victims the right to pursue legal action in the event that false or untrue statements are made. Lawsuits alleging libel or slander can be complicated cases and are sometimes difficult for plaintiffs to win. The experienced Southern California litigators at Brown & Charbonneau, LLP can provide representation in cases related to libel, slander, and malicious falsehood. To learn more about how our attorneys can help you in your legal case, give us a call.

What’s the Difference Between Libel, Slander, and Malicious Falsehood

Malicious falsehood is a broad category. Malicious falsehood is defined as a false statement that is made maliciously (intentionally with knowledge of its falsehood, or with reckless disregard for the truth). When malicious falsehood occurs, it can give rise to a civil lawsuit for either libel or slander. Libel or slander are the actual causes of action that a defendant will bring in the U.S. justice system. A defendant can sometimes bring a civil lawsuit for libel and slander even for statements made without malice, depending upon the circumstances.

If a statement is made about a celebrity or about a matter of public interest, actual malice is required in order for the malicious falsehood to be actionable. In other words, a malicious falsehood must have been made. When the statement is about a private figure or a non-public matter, on the other hand, a lawsuit can be filed for libel or slander based on a false untrue statement even without proving knowledge of untruth or reckless disregard for the truth. This means both public figures and private individuals may sue for malicious falsehoods that are made about them, but private figures may be able to sue in cases where public figures cannot because they do not have to prove malice.

Both public individuals and private citizens will be able to recover damages in a lawsuit for either slander or libel. However, slander and libel are not the same. The difference between libel and slander hinges upon how the falsehood was made. Libel refers to a written falsehood. Slander, on the other hand, refers to an oral defamatory statement.

Libel may occur when a newspaper article is published, when a letter to the editor contains falsehoods, in blog posts, or when public comments are made in written form such as in blog comments or in Internet forums. Slander, on the other hand, is an oral defamatory statement.

In both slander and libel cases, a victim pursuing legal action must show both that a false statement was made and that the statement caused some type of damage. The Irvine litigation lawyers at Brown & Charbonneau, LLP can provide assistance with gathering necessary evidence and making a strong case if you were harmed by libel, slander, and malicious falsehood. Call today to schedule a consultation and learn more. 714-505-3000