Hollywood is currently abuzz about the lawsuit that former Alabama Senate candidate, Roy S. Moore, has just filed against British actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. Mr. Moore is seeking over $95 million in damages for, among other things, defamation after he appeared on Cohen’s Showtime series, “Who Is America?” In the segment, Cohen took a device that appeared to be a metal detector wand, claiming that it could detect pedophiles, and used it to jokingly proclaim that Mr. Moore could be one.
Experts are divided on whether Mr. Moore will prevail, but the lawsuit sends a strong message: just because freedom of speech is guaranteed under the First Amendment does not mean that people automatically escape consequences for the things they say.
We’ve all heard the old rhyme about sticks and stones and how name calling can never hurt you. That may be the case during childhood squabbles, but once you’re an adult with potentially a lot to lose if others believe the accusations, it’s a completely different matter.
Slander, which is also known as defamation, is the act of making false and damaging verbal statements that harm another person’s reputation. For a statement to be considered slanderous under New York law, it must be:
- False but presented as if it were true
- Derogatory and/or detrimental to a person’s reputation
- Made available to a wide audience or the general public
- The cause of a subsequent injury, such as lost employment or business opportunities
United States common law places slander under the umbrella of personal injury law because of the harm done to the victim’s character. While victims can sue the person who made the damaging statements, doing so successfully can be difficult because many actions are protected by freedom of speech. Defendants may also try to escape liability by claiming that their statement was truthful and of valuable knowledge to the public.
Proving a slander claim
If you want to recover damages in a slander claim, you must prove that:
- The words spoken about you are untrue AND
- Your character suffered actual damage and/or the false claims about you created a pain and suffering situation
If you succeed, the available remedies include a retraction of the slanderous statement, follow-up publication of a truthful one, and money damages, especially if the slander caused you to suffer economic losses.
If you believe that someone’s malicious words have had a negative effect on your reputation, then contact a New York personal injury attorney. An attorney with a background in slander claims will help you determine whether enough evidence exists to sue the other person for slander and advise you on the best way to proceed. Jayson Lutzky is a personal injury lawyer with over 35 years of experience practicing in Bronx, New York. If you were injured, then contact his office at 718-329-9500 for a free in-person consultation. His office is located at 1740 Hone Avenue off of Morris Park Avenue.