I recently found out that my sister called our landlord and filled her in on everything about my fiancé and his past and current issues with the law. It almost cost us the house, which we worked very hard and made a lot of sacrifices for. It also almost cost a close friend her job, b/c she works for our landlord and was the liaison in getting us the house.
A contractor that he has known for years stopped by his job site to inform my fiance that my sister was saying a lot of negative things about him, i.e. his criminal background, etc.
I understand that arrest records are public knowledge, but is what my sister is doing considered slander? I have repeatedly asked her to stop talking about us, but she won't listen. Fiance has custody hearing soon and is worried how this might affect it.
As a threshold matter, statements are not slander if they are true. Further, information that is public record cannot be the basis of an invasion of privacy action.
The kind of family/personal situation that you describe can be very troublesome because the law is not truly designed to deal with these kinds of relationships gone wrong. You may want to consider having an attorney send a strongly worded "cease and desist" letter citing some legal issue. Or you may want to look into the standards for a petition to the courts for some sort of civil restraining order, although that may not be available on these facts.
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I am not admitted in SC (only in CA), so I can only provide a sort of general response on the issue of defamation cases. In general, all defamation actions (slander is a type of defamation) require these elements:
(1) a false and defamatory statement concerning another;
(2) publication of the statement, without privilege, to a third party;
(3) fault on the part of the publisher, amounting at least to negligence, in ascertaining whether the statement is true or false; and
(4) special damages.
[Restatement 2d, Torts § 558]
Typically speaking, you must show actual falsity AND knowledge by the person spreading the information of the falsity of the statement. If the information is true, there is no slander/libel. Also, statements made that are merely "opinions" are protected. (For example, there's a difference between saying "I think that guy is a crook" and saying "that guy is a felon." In the first instance you may be stating an opinion, where the 2nd example, if false, could be defamatory.)
The 3rd issue to address is damages: it's often hard to show actual damages resulting from the publication. In your case, you'd have to show what damages you suffered as a result of the statements.
That said, if the statements made about your fiance are false, you may have a civil case against the sister, but you'd have to assess what monetary losses you suffered to determine if the case was worth pursuing.
I would also concur with other counsel who noted that if the information being spread is, as you say, a matter of public record, there is not likely a cause of action for invasion of privacy. If, however, the sister is spreading information that is NOT a matter of public record, like the details of the offenses, that assessment could change.
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Slander is the oral communication of false statements which are harmful to someone’s reputation. Spoken opinions which don't contain statements of fact don't constitute slander. The basic elements of a claim of slander include; 1.defamatory statement 2. published to third parties 3.which the speaker/publisher knew or should have known was false.
Here, a true statement is not slander.
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