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Can I sue an individual for making a false allegation of sexual child abuse.

Pensacola, FL |

Although I was never arrested, tried or convicted I was accused of child molestation by a girls stepfather and the fathers daughter. My niece, the victim had conversations with her stepsister about child molestation. My niece(missy) tells the stepsister(cathy) that she thinks she was molested. She had vague memories of someone coming into her room and touching her and several occasions. The step daughter calls my sister and tells her that she thinks missy was molested. My sister, years ago had doctors tell her that they believed the stepfather (who was then the father)had molested the child. My sister had since divorced him. My sister told cathy that she believed that missy was experiencing repressed memories from those expericences. The stepdaughter immediately calls and reports me.

Attorney Answers 2


As defense lawyers say, anyone can walk down to the courthouse, pay the filing fee, and file a lawsuit, against anyone, for anything. Whether or not a valid case exists, is a different story.

Libel is written or printed defamation, while slander is verbal defamation. Defamation must be false and published (transmitted to persons other than the victim of the false accusation). There are times when defamation is not actionable, or qualifies for a privilege in the law, such as statements made in open court, etc.

A couple key questions any lawyer will consider when asked to file a lawsuit on someone's behalf: (1) what actual -- provable with evidence -- damages has the plaintiff suffered because of the [alleged] wrong; (2) who is liable and why?

Think about these.

What are the damages you have suffered -- can you make a list of them. Damage to reputation? Do others believe the false allegations? Has this false claim caused you to lose income/business, lose friends, or suffer actual damages? Have you lost liberty, been arrested, had to hire an attorney to fight charges? How many people are aware of the false accusation and believe it?

Who is liable and why? Do they have any insurance which will cover their actions? For example, does the target defendant -- the person who made the accusation or published (transmitted) the allegation -- have a personal liability insurance policy (umbrella insurance) which provides coverage for defamation? A lawyer will want to know that filing a lawsuit (which can be costly) will have some reasonable chance of recovering damages (unless the lawyer bills hourly).

Armed with the specifics (the who, when, where, date of publication of allegations, etc.), you should consult a local lawyer. I strongly suggest you have this laid out for him/her in advance so the lawyer can review the specific circumstances involved and determine whether a claim is worthwhile. Generalities simply won't do in the case of a consult.

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An allegation that you committed a crime for which you have not been convicted is defamation per se under Florida law - meaning the accusation is so severe that you do not have to prove damages. However, another reality is whether the people you want to sue have any assets to pay a judgment you may receive. If they don't have assets, you might have trouble finding an attorney to take the case unless are able to pay the costs and attorney fees yourself.

Bonnie Riggens
Law Office of Bonita M. Riggens
669 1st Ave. N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Phone: 727-898-1401
Fax: 727-823-7351

Employment law representation: Contracts (Noncompete Agreements, Severance Negotiations), Defamation, Discrimination (Age, Disability, Gender, Pregnancy, National Origin, Race, Religion), Family and Medical Leave Act, Overtime Law. Privacy Law, Retaliation and Whistleblower Law, Sex Harassment, Unemployment Compensation, Unpaid Wages, USERRA

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