False insinuations of infidelity...

by Rick
(Cullman, AL, USA)

My sister-in-law was told in an e-mail by a friend of hers that I was on a dating site actively looking (for women) in the last week. My sister-in-law then forwarded that e-mail to my wife, insinuating that I was cheating on her (i.e. stated that "if it were her, she would want to know").

My profile on that application, which was not an application used expressly for dating, clearly stated that I was not looking to "hook up," but was instead looking to meet people to hang out and do things with. I specifically named activities such as movies or watching bands.

There was no reason after reviewing my profile that any reasonable person should have assumed I was looking to cheat. My sister-in-law sent this e-mail to my wife, at her job (bank teller), where my wife read it and had a complete meltdown in front of customers, prompting managerial intervention.

Fortunately, she suffered no damages as a result, other than the embarrassment caused by it, but now everyone where she works thinks I'm a cheater. I am a licensed Registered Nurse, working with patients in a clinic. This sort of misrepresentation of the situation could affect my employment, my professional credibility, and my license.

Do I have grounds to sue for defamation in Alabama? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "False insinuations of infidelity...":

Rick (Cullman, AL, USA):

By your own admission, you were on a "dating site." The last time we looked, dating sites exist for the sole purpose of assisting men and woman to find "dates," whether they be for friendship, serious relationships, or marriage.

To have the basis of a defamation lawsuit, whether by libel (published defamatory statements such as emails), or slander (spoken statements), a victim must have been accused of an action or omission which is patently false, and that action must have resulted in financial losses.

Financial loses are generally defined as the victim's inability to earn a living, diminished status in the workplace, and similar losses.

In all cases, truth is an absolute defense to allegations made about a person, regardless of how serious those allegations are. Moreover, defamation is not transitory. This means defamatory statements about one person can not be claimed by a third party. In this case, that third party would be your wife. Her suffering is not compensable.

From the facts you present, you do not have the basis of a defamation claim. Pursuing a claim, especially if it results in a lawsuit, may expose you to personal questions you may not feel comfortable answering.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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