I accused someone who works for my same employer of making threats. Can this person now turn around and sue me?

Will my home owners policy defend me if the person I accused sues me? The employer investigated and found that my accusations lacked merit. Am I now liable under some theory of law?

El Cajon, CA -

Attorney Answers (4)

Jonathon Kaplan

Jonathon Kaplan

Employment / Labor Attorney - Los Angeles, CA
Answered

Someone can always sue. The question is whether they can win.
If you made a truthful report for a legitimate reason, then you would not be liable for defamation. (By the way, libel refers to a written statement. Slander refers to an oral statement. Defamation is the broader term that encompasses both libel and slander.)
Here, your accusation was legitimate if you felt threatened by your co-employee. If it is true that this person was making threats to you, you had an absolute right to report this. If your report was accurate, then you should have no liability.
In addition, I assume you reported this to your employer. If this is the case, your employer has a duty to investigate and take the appropriate actions against the person who threatened you.

Tara Renee Burd

Tara Renee Burd

Employment / Labor Attorney - San Diego, CA
Answered

To add to my colleague: Absent further information, I am not aware of any instance in which a homeowner's policy would defend you in a suit unrelated to your home.

This reply is provided for information purposes only and does not represent legal advice or an attorney-client... more
Nicholas Basil Spirtos

Nicholas Basil Spirtos

Construction / Development Lawyer - Montclair, CA
Answered

If you make a false statement about someone that causes them damages, then you could be sued, and could be found liable.

If the statements you made to your employer were true, or you reasonably believed them to be true, then you could still be sued, but would not likely be liable.

If the statements were true, that is a defense to a slander or libel claim, but still might not be enough to stop a lawsuit.

As to whether you have insurance coverage, you need to review your policy.

Ryan D Metheny

Ryan D Metheny

Libel / Slander Lawyer - Berkeley, CA
Answered

Most homeowner's policies include personal liability coverage. Some of these policies will cover defamation claims, especially if you have an additional "personal and advertising injury" coverage. Strange, but true, that your homeowner's policy can include this type of coverage unrelated to your home. Insurance companies decided long ago to bundle these two types of coverage together and offer them as a single product, although I could not tell you why. Same with renter's policies.

However, even where the policy language would seem to permit coverage, insurance companies differ in how they respond to defamation claims. Many will deny coverage on the basis that defamation is an intentional act, and therefore not insurable under California law.

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