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Can I be sued for defamation, libel or slander?

Santa Barbara, CA |

I texted my husband privately, about a woman he was having an affair with. I told him about some crimes that she had told me that she had been accused of. I have researched it, and she was accused of these crimes, but never convicted. He forwarded the texts to her and now she has them posted on her Facebook and is threatening to sue me. She is the one who made it public.

Attorney Answers 7

  1. Best answer

    Defamation is a false statement of fact, about another person, that harms that person's reputation. In this circumstance, you seem to think that her publication of the texts means that she's the one who published them, but you're not exactly right. When you sent the allegedly defamatory texts to your husband, that was enough for publication. Remember, defamation needs three people -- the subject of the defamation, the speaker, and at least one listener.

    That's the bad news. Now the good news:

    First off, you told your husband that she was "accused" of the crimes. So, if she was accused, and not convicted, it sounds like you told the truth. Guess what? Truth is the ultimate defense to a defamation claim.

    More good news: Even if you told your husband that she was convicted, and she was only accused, you would be able to invoke the "substantial truth doctrine." If the words you uttered had no different effect on the listener than the full truth, then you win.

    Oh, more good news -- she's going to need to show damages. How much damage did it cause? A married guy who is screwing her might not like her anymore? Yeah, good luck with that in front of a judge or jury.

    Finally, the best news -- if she's dumb enough to sue you, you can file an anti-SLAPP motion (Cal Code Civ. Proc 425.16). That will most likely mean that she has to pay your defense costs.

    You're in good shape. But, it wouldn't hurt to get a letter to her outlining this so that you never have to deal with the lawsuit in the first place.

    I am not your lawyer. This is not legal advice. If you were my client, you would know it.

  2. Anybody can be sued, but you did not publish to 3rd party.


  3. I agree with Mr. Lassen. She published the texts. She might try to sue for sending the text to your husband. However no lawyer in their riught mind would take that case.

  4. She's an idiot. If she was charged, that's already a matter of public record. This sounds like a lot of drama you need to start avoiding, however.

  5. It is very difficult to successfully sue someone for disclosing a matter of public record. Our adult criminal court system is open for all the world to see. Criminal charges are not "private." The fact that she was never convicted does not give the woman standing to sue if your statement was true to what really happened (ie, merely saying that she was charged with crimes).

    Thus, disclosing the fact that someone was charged with a crime is not slander -so long as the statement you made about the charges was accurate. She can technically sue, but the judge is supposed to dismiss this type of case.

    My advice is directed at California cases since that is where I am licensed.

  6. In reading over the responses and comments to the responses to your post, I suspect that you are more confused than ever given the range of "advice" offered.
    Here are some thoughts and a suggestion:
    First, yes she can sue; the reality is that anyone can sue for almost anything. The question is whether she can win.
    Next, you did "publish" the allegations to your husband, and that can in theory trigger liability. But if she did sue you, you have a broad range of defenses, including privilege (communication to your husband about matters affecting the two of you); truth; and that the information you communicated was non-defamatory (saying that someone was accused of a crime is not necessarilly the same as alleging that she is a criminal).
    My advice: spend an hours worth of time in a consultation with an attorney who can review the emails and offer you guidance. The cost of that hour may pay for itself by providing you peace of mind.

    This law firm handles appeals in all appellate courts throughout California, except bankruptcy, unemployment and workers comp appeals. Nothing contained in this communication is intended to be, or shall be deemed to be, legal advice, counsel, or services to you or on behalf of you or any other person or any entity. Use of the Avvo website does not create any obligation or relationship between you and the Law Office of Herb Fox, including but not limited to, an attorney-client relationship. Further, the communications on this website between you and the Law Office of Herb Fox is not privileged or confidential, and you should not post any information that you intend to keep confidential. Finally, your situation may be governed by legal deadlines, and you may lose your rights if you do not or did not act within those deadlines. You are solely responsible for meeting those deadlines until and unless you retain an attorney.

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