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Can I sue for Defamation of Character if a co-worker provides a false witness statement which caused a problem for me at work?

Tampa, FL |

I am a public school teacher. I was brought into my Principal's office due to a grievance towards me by another teacher. His only evidence came from two witness statements by the same person. In one statement the person lied about something I said, even quoting me. The other statement was used as evidence to prove I was continuing my actions. In this case the witness completely made up an incident stating I came by her desk in the office and made another comment about the other teacher. I hadn't even gone in the office for 3 days surrounding the time this happened. This person provided a signed statement that I made comments about the teacher who brought the grievance up on me and an assistant principal. She happens to be THAT assistant principal’s secretary. Can I sue her for Defamation?

To add more information, in a meeting with the principal, myself, and the other teacher filing the complaint, I asked for the secretary to come in and validate she wrote the statement. She did, lying to me as well as the Principal. When I asked her any details about when I came by her desk she became flustered and could not even provide a time period of day this occurred. She was obviously lying and was acting like she really didn't want to be. She wrote and spoke false statements of fact about me that stated a false quote which has and will harm me. She also stated and spoke false statements of fact placing me in the office which I never even entered that day and again falsely quoting me as I was never there to even speak to her. Again, this has and will cause me harm. In addition, I have a very sick wife at home and this situation is causing her additional distress.

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Attorney answers 3


That is up to you if you want to pursue an action for her libel. Libel is publishing in print, which includes pictures, an untruth about another which will do harm to that person or his or her reputation, by tending to bring the target into ridicule, hatred, scorn or contempt of others. Contact a local defamation lawyer for a free consultation to protect your rights and reputation.

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Defamation requires proof that incorrect statements of fact, not opinion, were made to third parties and that it caused harm to you. Here is a link to a guide on defamation law to help you determine whether the law applies to your circumstances.

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This answer is offered for informational purposes only. It is not offered as, and does not constitute, legal advice. Laws vary widely from state to state. You should rely only on the advice given to you during a personal consultation by a local attorney who is thoroughly familiar with state laws and the area of practice in which your concern lies.


In a nutshell, libel, the written form of defamation, requires you to prove a statement was made about you, which was/is false, in writing, which has been published, and causes you damages. Slander is the verbal form of defamation.

These are often quite difficult to prove because of (1) opinions often do not qualify; (2) proving damages (i.e. harm to reputation and/or portraying character in false light) are very difficult to establish; (3) there are certain statements which are immune from a claim.

Based on your summary, you claim that a completely false account was made about you, was written in a complaint form, published to the principal, and has affected your employment (although it is unclear whether it has affected you financially). The bare basics may seem to be present, but the devil is always in the details.

For example, the content of the statement may not raise to the level of defamation. The statement in the complaint may receive qualified immunity because it was made in the course of official duties. Part of all of the statement may be true. The statement may express opinions rather than facts. Your damages are unclear. Etc. Lots of variables make or break these types of claims, which is why there are rarely pursued.

You should consult an attorney to review the situation -- all the facts.

DISCLAIMER: We do not have an attorney-client relationship. Only those persons who have a signed written fee agreement and authority to represent with me is an actual client. This response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than my educated opinion or viewpoint. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. I recommend you consult a lawyer if you want professional assurance that this information, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation. Do not act on any information in this response without seeking legal advice from an attorney in your area.

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