Can you sue for slander when someone says you stole something and it is false while testifying in a civil court?

Asked about 1 year ago - Cortland, OH

This woman said I wasn't allowed in her home because I stole something while testifying in front of the magistrate and the 2 attorneys. My attorney objected and the magistrate struck it from the record but I was applaud by this accusation.

Attorney answers (5)

  1. Joseph Jonathan Brophy

    Contributor Level 20

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    Answered . No. Witnesses who testify in open court are immune from defamation lawsuits.

    Any opinions stated in response to Avvo questions are based upon the facts stated in the question. Responses to... more
  2. Lauren Elizabeth Goodhart

    Contributor Level 12

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    Answered . Unfortunately no. I'll kinds of accusations can be made in open court as well as in accompanying documents. Only allegations communicated to a third party outside and independent of litigation may give rise to a claim

  3. Robert Darius Dumbrys

    Contributor Level 8

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    Answered . I do not think that you can sue for statements made in Court. I believe they are privileged. However, note that any communication otherwise is a "publication". So if this women is telling people OUTSIDE of Court that you were a thief, and you are not. Yes any statement as FACT ie "Cortland is a thief" (not true defamatory) "Cortland in my opinion is a thief" (not true opinion, not defamatory).

    However, if this is part of an ongoing matter I would speak with your Defense Attorney first about the effects of her testimony, and not doing anything so you do not get into witness tampering.

    But, assuming there was no Court. Ohio follows the Common Law. If she said this outside I have sent many cease and desist letters as Ohio has categories of "per se" defamation. They are "per se" as you need not prove damages (ie going to a Dr.) they are presumed by the nature of the accusation/statement. Again not opinion. T

    Per Se is important as if she says otherwise outside and not per se (I could be wrong) you would yes be defamed, but you would have to prove damages (Per Se Categories are presumed).

    Good luck. Depending on who the person is and you find she continues to state/can prove then yes "Cease and Desist" and possible per se matter.

    Actually as I have a moment I will make sure for you. Yes, what I thought is correct I believe:
    "It is well established that defamatory testimony in a judicial proceeding which is material to the inquiry is privileged absolutely and cannot be the basis of an action for libel or slander even if the testimony is given maliciously and with knowledge of its falsity. Liles v. Gaster (1885), 42 Ohio St. 631; 50 Am. Jur. 2d 766, Section 249, LIBEL AND SLANDER."

    General:

    The elements of a common-law defamation claim, which includes both libel and slander, are: (1) a false and defamatory statement concerning another; (2) an unprivileged publication of the statement to a third party; (3) fault amounting to at least negligence on the part of the publisher; and (4) either actionability of the statement irrespective of special harm or the existence of special harm caused by the publication. Akron-Canton Waste Oil, Inc. v. Safety-Kleen Oil Serv., Inc. (1992), 81 Ohio App.3d 591, 601; Restatement of the Law 2d, Torts (1977) 155, Section 558.

    Material falsity is an essential element of defamation. Bruss, supra at 400, citing New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964), 376 U.S. 254. As such, in defending against a defamation action, it is sufficient for the defendant to show that "the imputation is substantially true, or as it is often put, to justify the 'gist,' the 'sting,' or the substantial truth of the defamation." National Medic Services Corp. v. E.W. Scripps Co. (1989), 61 Ohio App.3d 752, 755, citing Prosser, Law of Torts (4 Ed. 1971) 798-799, accord Bruss, supra.

    PER SE DEFAMATION:
    Defamation is divided into the categories of defamation per se and defamation per quod. When a statement is unambiguous, the question of whether it is defamatory per se is a question of law for the court to determine. Gosden v. Louis (1996), 116 Ohio App.3d 195, 207.
    But, if a statement is defamatory per quod, the plaintiff must plead and prove special damages. Id. "Special damages are damages of such a nature that they

    s: (1) the words import a charge of an indictable offense involving moral turpitude or infamous punishment; (2) the words impute some offensive or contagious disease calculated to deprive a person of society; (3) the words tend to injure a person in his trade or occupation; and (4) in cases of libel only, the words tend to subject a person to public hatred, ridicule, or contempt. Schoedler v. Motometer Gauge & Equip. Corp. (1938), 134 Ohio.St. 78, 84 (setting forth the three classes that constitute slander per se).

    I am not positive that the first is now "any crime". Or if being a criminal is Per se as exposing you to contempt. But again I believe it only matters outside of the Court to a third party.

    The information provided by Mr. Dumbrys is general in nature concerning common legal issues. Individuals... more
  4. Harry Edward Hudson Jr

    Contributor Level 20

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    Lawyers agree

    Answered . No.

    The above is not intended as legal advice. The response does not constitute the creation of an attorney client... more
  5. Christian K. Lassen II

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

    2

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . No, as statements in court & court proceedings enjoy privilege from defamation lawsuits

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