While someone spreading rumors about you may harm your reputation, can you seek civil action against the other party? Some people believe that free speech means they can say anything under any circumstance.
According to Fox 17 of West Michigan, a person’s right to free speech does not extend to defamation.
How far is too far?
Defamation is a legal term and a broad category that includes libel and slander. The major difference between libel and slander is you print libel and you speak slander. Defamation occurs when a person prints or states something as fact with the intent to harm another person.
Defamation may be difficult to prove and when it comes to public figures, it becomes more difficult. Public figures have a high burden of proof because the public often discusses and debates their lives. A person may make an inflammatory statement about a public figure under the belief that it may be true. To pursue a claim, you have to prove the person knew about the false information and continued to spread it with reckless disregard for the person.
What constitutes defamation?
Defamation relies on the truth behind the statement. For example, if a company or person spreads information about you or your business that harmed your reputation but happened to be true, you cannot sue for defamation. Only lies can be defamatory. However, if you lose business because someone spreads a false rumor about you, you could file a civil lawsuit against the other party.
If you do have a case of defamation, the statute of limitations generally lasts for one year.