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Slander or Libel: What is the Difference?

By John DiGiacomo

Slander and libel are both types of defamation. Both involve false statements made that cause injury to the target/victim of the statements. Slander is legally defined as SPOKEN words of defamation; that is, oral defamation. By contrast, Libel is legally defined as WRITTEN words of defamation — that is, false statements made in writing.

One key difference between the two is with respect to ease of proof. Slander — being oral statements — can, sometimes, be difficult to prove since the exact words may not be correctly remembered. Of course, if the oral false statements are recorded or broadcast, then there can be no difficulty in the proof. Since libel is in writing, then there is no particular difficulty in proving the exact words that were written.

The exact words are an important aspect of the proof since small differences in what was said or written can have a large impact on legal liability. For example, a statement that is considered an opinion is generally not defamation — either slander or libel. The exact wording used will often make a difference in whether the statement can be seen as an opinion or an actionable false statement of fact. As a quick example, consider the difference between “I think he is a crook” versus “He is a crook.” The first might be an opinion; the other is a statement of fact. Generally, statements of fact are subject to proof or disproof, while an opinion is, well, an opinion.

If a person or business has been the victim of libel or slander, they can file a civil lawsuit in state or federal court.

There are two purposes for suing if you have been the victim of libel and/or slander. The first purpose is to obtain monetary damages for the injury caused by the false statement (or statements). The injury may be reputational, emotional, or quantifiable economic to a business or business relationship. If, for example, you are a social media influencer with several promotional contracts with businesses, and if you lose any of those promotional contracts because of libel or defamation, you can sue for the economic losses due to those canceled promotional contracts. Likewise, if a business is libeled or slandered, and the libel/slander causes a loss of sales, then the business can sue for lost profits and other associated economic damages.

The second purpose is to punish the person/business engaging in slander or libel and to deter others from engaging in similar reprehensible behavior. This is done by seeking punitive damages, which is available for libel and/or slander in many cases. Being legally liable for libel and/or slander often requires proof that the person making the false statements did so with intent. Put legally, libel and slander are intentional torts. As such, if the facts are sufficiently egregious, then punitive damages can be awarded. Punitive damages are not compensation; rather, they are punishment. The punishment is also directed at others in the sense that others will see the punishment and be deterred from engaging in similar types of libel and slander.

Contact the Libel and Slander Defense Attorneys at Revision Legal For more information, contact the experienced Libel and Slander Defense Lawyers at Revision Legal. You can contact us through the form on this page or call (855) 473-8474.

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