Can I sue a former employer for libel slander if they are releasing false information that is causing drastic harm

Asked over 3 years ago - Houston, TX

Truck driver being black balled by former employer hindering me from receiving new job opportunities based on what's being reported by former employer on my dac report through HireRight Solutions Inc.

Attorney answers (3)

  1. William J. Dyer

    Contributor Level 15

    1

    Lawyer agrees

    1

    Answered . Libel and slander -- collectively referred to as defamation -- are very, very hard cases to sue on and win.

    To begin with, defamation only covers false statements of verifiable, empirical fact -- not opinions. So a statement like "I think Smith is a bad driver" or "I think Smith is unreliable," while the are potentially incredibly damaging, can't form the basis for a lawsuit. By contrast, "When he worked for us, we saw Jones drink a pint of bourbon in the ten minutes before he was supposed to begin his shift driving for our company" -- if false -- would be the kind of factual statement that might qualify. So whether you have a case, and how strong the case might be, very much depends on the EXACT DETAILS of whatever has been said or written about you.

    You probably don't want to be publishing those exact details anywhere on the internet, not even anonymously through a website like Avvo.com. Instead, you should discuss them directly with an attorney under the cloak of attorney-client privilege, where you can be absolutely candid and honest, including about potential embarrassments or skeletons in your closet.

    Because truth is a defense, and because your preexisting reputation is also at issue (you couldn't be damaged unless you had a reputation to lose), then every defamation plaintiff ends up having his entire life scrutinized very carefully, very invasively, with not only the plaintiff himself but others being required to give testimony about the plaintiff under oath. There has been many a defamation plaintiff who's ended up making his life worse by giving someone who already dislikes him an opportunity to further publicize every bit of negative information about the plaintiff through the lawsuit. Courts are very, very reluctant to seal any part of these files, so a whole lot of embarrassing things can become permanent parts of the public record.

    These cases are front-end loaded: They tend to start off with lots of work in a short time by lots of lawyers, and they're therefore quite expensive. If your potential defendant is solvent or insured (and therefore judgment-worthy, i.e., they have money they could be forced to fork over if you win), and if your case is strong, you may can find a lawyer who'll work on a contingent fee basis. Otherwise you may have to come out of pocket for many thousands of dollars up front to pay a lawyer either on a flat-fee basis or, more likely, a traditional hourly rate basis. Paying someone to handle one of these cases on an hourly-rate basis is a luxury only the very wealthy can afford, frankly.

    There are some lawyers who are competent to handle, and experienced in, both personal injury and defamation cases. But don't presume that's true. The average car-crash case has almost nothing to do with a defamation case. The governing law is different, the way you prove your case is different; sometimes even the legal procedures are different (there are a lot of special rules, like rules allowing mid-lawsuit appeals, that are designed just to make defamation cases harder). Sometimes defamation cases involve complicated combinations of federal and state law, including First Amendment and other constitutional law. And it's very, very easy to screw up one of these cases through inexperience. You should certainly ask not only how much general experience the lawyer has in this area, but how many of these cases he's seen through to a final judgment or an appeal (instead of settling early).

    In any event, be warned that libel and slander claims have a very short statute of limitations in Texas: The lawsuit must be filed within ONE YEAR after the defamatory statement was published (i.e., distributed publicly or at least to someone other than the plaintiff and defendant themselves), or else the case will be immediately thrown out as time-barred.

  2. Christian K. Lassen II

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

    1

    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . Very possible depending on the facts. Search Avvo for a lawyer in your state and call for a free consultation.

    Click on name or picture to see profile page.
  3. Harry Edward Hudson Jr

    Contributor Level 20

    Answered . Probably. Contact a personal injury attorney. This type of case is not usually favored by the courts due to the impact on one's freedom of speech rights. Also, generally , if the derogatory comment(s) was (were) expressed as an opinion, I doubt if you will be able toproceed.

    The above is not intended as legal advice. The response does not constitute the creation of an attorney client... more

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