Visitor Question

Slander in regards to an STD?

Submitted By: A (USA)

I have an employee who is involved in divorce proceedings with another employee.

The male spouse was diagnosed with an STD. He told some close friends he contracted it from his spouse, whom he has accused of cheating on him. These individuals then told others about the husband’s accusations.

The wife was notified by another party, who told her they had been told she had an STD. The question is, can the husband be held accountable for slander? The wife came back with a clean bill of health, no STD. She now wants to pursue slander allegations. Does she have legal grounds to do so? Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear A,

Slander and libel are generally both referred to as defamation. Slander is an untrue oral statement made by one party to a third party which results in harm to another party. That harm can be personal, social, or financial.

Slander does not occur when one party makes an oral statement to another party to which the slander is directed. In other words, if you wrongly accuse John of being a thief, but you only tell John you think he is a thief, and there aren’t any other parties who are able to hear you accuse John, there is no slander.

Slander is different from libel. Libel is generally defined as a publication, either in a writing, email, text, or in any other electronic form which wrongly harms another party.

Most states recognize “per se” defamation. Per se slander is slander which is so clearly and seriously untrue that it’s mere utterance doesn’t require any other evidence to prove defamation.

The following constitute defamation per se:

– Untrue statements which harm a person’s professional reputation or standing in the community

– An untrue statement that a person is unchaste

– An untrue statement that a person has a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

– An untrue statement a person has committed a crime of moral turpitude such as theft, sexual assault, or other serious crime

Inasmuch as his wife is not infected with an STD, it would appear the husband is liable under the per se definition of slander. To pursue a slander case, you will need the counsel of an attorney.

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

Best of luck,

Published: August 27, 2014

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