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What Is Oral Defamation?

Gossip about classmates is a form of oral defamation that might be injurious enough to be labeled bullying.
Gossip or rumor spreading in high school can be a form of oral defamation.
Oral defamation is similar to mean-spirited gossip.
Oral defamation in the workplace can lead to loss of income as well as mental anguish.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2014
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Oral defamation, which is also often called slander, is a malicious act of spreading untrue statements about someone or something else, in a way that is intended to cause harm or that does create harm. It is contrasted to written or recorded defamation, which is usually referred to as libel. The statements made orally could sometimes also be made in written forms if they’re impermanent, like writing a slanderous note on a scrap of paper that later gets discarded. There’s a little confusion in separating the definitions of slander and libel. Libel can also be oral, but if it is spoken, it needs to be spoken in some permanent and recorded form, such as on a television broadcast.

Principally, oral defamation is similar to malicious gossip. A person spreads an untrue story about someone or something else to others. He or she might repeat the story multiple times or address a group of people and communicate the story to them all at once. Generally, the more people who hear the libelous statements, the more damage it might be likely to cause their subjects.

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In a legal setting, oral defamation usually has to proven as being injurious. There has to be some real means by which the subject of libelous statements suffered damage as a result of them. This may be easy to prove or difficult, depending on the types of statements made. Repeating to friends that a particular business, such as a restaurant, wasn’t very clean, usually wouldn’t constitute oral defamation, even if that statement is not generally true. Additionally, if a statement is opinion and clearly not presented as fact, it’s often not considered libel.

Examples of more clearly defined libel include having discussions about coworkers that impugn their reputation. Spreading a rumor that a coworker has traded sexual favors for promotions is undoubtedly damaging and could seriously impact that worker’s career. Even though oral defamation isn’t recorded, rumors often live for long periods of time and continue to spread. Gossip about classmates in junior high and high schools works in the same way and in some cases is so injurious that it is considered bullying and may be subject to criminal charges. Often, oral defamation may turn to libel as people use other media like the Internet to spread untrue statements.

A person charged with libel has numerous defenses. He can state the oral defamation was unintentional because he thought the statement was true. Alternately, he could argue that any inferences made could have been made by anyone else evaluating the situation. Another argument is that the defamation didn’t cause harm or that there was not intent to cause harm by making the statement.

Types of charges for oral defamation depend on perceived damages. Charges may be criminal or civil. Many countries treat this matter in civil courts and don’t assess any form of criminal charges, unless libel resulted in egregious physical damage.

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Discuss this Article

stingray9999
Post 32

I moved into a new area within the last 12 months. Once I arrived, someone thought I was a criminal who had stabbed someone. Obviously, I looked like this person but I wasn't.

Now the person that this criminal had stabbed had friends and family in the area. At first, I didn't realize what was going on, but after some time I became aware of the problem. The problem still isn't resolved to this day and I've received death threats. If I can prove who started this rumor and I already know, what are my legal rights?

jessiwan
Post 31

@Post 28: if it's something that you genuinely believe to be true, then no, I don't think it's defamation, or that he has a case against you.

anon352660
Post 28

I am running for the elections and I discovered with evidence and witnesses that the other party did vote buying. When I met him, I told him we had discovered his vote buying, and he started to freak out that I have found this offense against him. Now he is charging me with moral damages. Does he have a case?

anon352128
Post 27

I have falsely been accused of stealing money from my job. I have been suspended pending investigation. I know for a fact that they have no evidence because I have done nothing wrong, and I cannot wait for my meeting with my union rep and bosses.

Rumors have spread throughout my job with approx. 100 employees. I am embarrassed that I was even accused, but I need to know what kind of legal action I can take against my employer for the loss of wages and embarrassment they have caused me.

mddm
Post 26

I was accused of something. I am not even sure what it is, but it stems from making inappropriate political comments at work and perhaps against the country of the person I said this to.

The 30 year employee spread something very malicious about me because many people started giving me odd looks and it escalated throughout the years, with me being isolated, people laughing while looking at me as they walked by, new employees became cold after one week at work.

It was a nightmare but I knew I had nothing to hide from, so I figured it would stop. This went on for long years and I suffered humiliation and really awful treatment despite confronting the person who started it and all that went along with it. Even HR was acting as if nothing was wrong. They would tell me I was imagining things.

Yet management started accusing me of things that were not true looking for an excuse to get rid of me. The letters praising my work by clients proved otherwise. Management thought I was an eyesore. Finally, they got rid of me by setting me up in a ridiculous, unfair situation.

Now five years later, I find employers who hire me as a freelancer are very happy with my work and after two or three years they stop giving me work out cold. No explanations. I call them and they come up with some really lame, generic excuses. This has happened three times in the last five years. This coincides with me updating work info on a social networking site. Once I put my info there, it is only a mater of months when the current company stops hiring me or does not call me ever again, even if I have been there for years and they praise my work. I know that comes from that job but I have no way of finding out who is doing this.

Any ideas how I could go about this? Should I call my previous job's HR department and threaten them with a defamation lawsuit? I don't know what to do. I moved on in my life yet they keep bringing me back in, no pun intended.

anon344087
Post 25

I am a mental health caregiver, and about six years ago, a mental health kid accused me of child abuse, and this kid was a known criminal, abusive and violent. The police seem to think throwing rocks in the street with golf clubs by him is normal and they don't seem to think that there is anything wrong with that, including his parents abusing him of stealing medications. Then I get a history with the police when I report the crimes. Still to date, the police tell the schools about this so-called history, putting me in a very serious situation. Now they think that I am a drug user, and the governor sends out the FBI to do a profile on me. Man alive. I have been through it all, and this seems to the nature of the business, my colleagues say. I say, enough! It's wearing on me, and my friends, to a point I have to move out of state to keep my sanity.

anon338935
Post 23

Do I have a defamation or slander case? Here is the problem. Someone got a certified copy of my criminal record and mailed it to my employer and other people with the intention to get me fired and ruin my reputation. The record was from many years ago, but that is not the point. Also, she is making calls and texts saying untrue things about my husband and me. What do I do?

anon338089
Post 21

My manger pulled me off part of my route and stated a customer filed a sexual harassment complaint on me. He never asked them who the driver was or what he looked like. This is in the same city as our company. Two weeks later they tell me they found out who the driver was. The problem is they always accuse me of doing things in the city and every time it was found not to be me. Is there any legal case here?

anon325383
Post 19

I have been falsely accused for making calls to my friends finance' and defaming him. I have not made any such calls. Secondly, my mobile number is said to be reflected on her office phone. I am not sure how this can happen.

anon323375
Post 18

There are some individuals in our community who are spreading gossip that I am having an affair with some guy, which is totally untrue. I am happily married with kids and I found myself being caught in this gossip and it put me in a shameful situation. I just want to ask if I can file a defamation case on these individuals. I also have evidence like SMS messages from my friend's mobile phone.

anon319438
Post 17

One of my neighbors is spreading rumors about me. He is spying on us and telling everyone that I am gay and have a gay relationship. But they do not have any kind of proof, and they just want to ruin our family's reputation. They want to take revenge for an old offense.

Do I have a defamation case?

anon306670
Post 16

My boss (district manager) called me and accused me (I am the manager) and one of my employees of stealing. I did not make any of the purchases and because I didn't catch it on the invoices that my employee made, I was severely admonished (verbally). I explained that I never noticed it and my boss looked me square in the face and said, "I don't believe you!" I get threatened daily with termination.

Because I asked for proof and tried to prove the accusations as false, my boss told others that I must be sleeping with my employee. It's not true. I want proof before I agree with the accusations, that's all. Our jobs got posted on craigslist, and yet neither of us has been given the opportunity to respond to accusations, or even know what specifically they are. When my employee was seen with a roll of toilet paper in his hand (it still had the wrapper on it and he was putting it in the men's room) the boss asked him if he was stealing that now. It's a very hostile work environment. By the way, our state is an "at will" state, meaning anyone can get fired for any reason (except for the seven discrimination topics). Any words of wisdom? Please help.

anon290869
Post 14

A well respected co-worker told my boss that I was on drugs. She stated: "I can spot an opiate addict miles away, and he is definitely one!" She also said to keep a close eye on me because opiate addicts steal and lie. I only know she said it because my boss sent me a text right after she said it to tell me that she said it. I also have on cctv him talking to her and then him texting me right after that. I held on to the text for a few weeks then I accidentally erased it. Is this defamation?

anon290473
Post 13

I fell at work and injured my back. The boss told some employees I was a wimp for not sucking it up and returning to work.

anon288879
Post 12

My friend asked me to borrow money from another friend. She issued a pdcs. After funding a few checks, she stopped doing so. The friend who lent the money is now going after me since he said I am the guarantor. He has been telling my co-workers that I owe him money and that I did not pay him. Can I file for a slander case? Thank you.

anon281436
Post 11

Some one is accusing me of oral defamation but I don't think it is. How can it be oral defamation if no other people I talked to about her know her. She has no evidence that I talked about her. My question is: do I need to file a case against her for ... moral damages?? She's the one spreading the untrue story ... about me.

anon280252
Post 10

This is a long one but I'll try and keep it brief.

Basically, my best friend was in a car accident in May and sadly lost his life. RIP Frazer. God bless your soul. The driver was a bullying drug dealer who happened to share a lot of friends with me. He bullied Frazer into letting him drive his car, even though he was banned from driving, high on drugs and driving recklessly. This is the truth as told by my other friend, who was in the car when it happened. The driver is still in hospital unconscious and in critical condition.

His family has done many disgusting things since this happened – too many to go into detail. One of the worst is selling the story to be published into a documentary and receiving money for information about the incident. Just to be clear, this is the driver's family.

I have been going crazy and rang the dad up to tell him what I though of his evil, money-making plot. The family has now turned everyone in our local area against me, manipulating visitors and talking more about me than their own son and more importantly more than Frazer. Obviously, there are two sides to every story but what they have said is all lies.

Frazer's family know and have backed me 100 percent and also so does the only other passenger in the car when it happened, but try telling that to 30,000 people in our local town. Many different people have called me and supported me but most have only heard the driver's side of the story and now hate me.

I'm getting abuse wherever I go and even to the point that I've been threatened with being shot and stabbed because unfortunately, these money hungry leeches on society are extremely good liars. The dad can't read or write so his only communication is talk, so like a blind man, other senses are better to make up for the ones he is lacking.

I've been depressed for the past month because not only have I had to deal with the death of one of my oldest and closest friends, but also this needless crap.

Is the any way I can press charges against them to stop? I don't want any money from it. I just want the truth to be heard, but any compensation I could receive I would give to Frazer's mum and dad because they have a £5000 funeral bill which they can't afford. Please help. I'm 21 and live in the U.K.

anon275740
Post 9

My boss told another boss that I told him that I found her husband having an affair with the secretary and that never happened, I don't appreciate that he accused me of the person who reported it to him when I never said or saw that.

anon272468
Post 8

I am 22 years old. What case can I file against a woman who pointed a laser in my eyes during a basketball game? I experienced a second of blindness, then when we complained about that woman, her husband went to me and pointed fingers with a lighted cigarette in my face three times. I felt assaulted and I felt fear. What case can I file on him?

anon232086
Post 6

I am a victim of public harassment through facebook. There is a person who posted my name, our chats and messages and even my photos on her account with untrue and embarrassing thoughts about me. Are there legal actions I can do for this? I am from Philippines.

anon168840
Post 5

I would like to know the scope a valid complainant has in an oral defamation or slander case. Can a relative of someone be a complainant for oral defamation? for example, the mother of a legal age guy insists that she will file an oral defamation case against someone who said something slanderous to his son. is that valid?

icecream17
Post 4

Cupcake15 - I wanted to add that recently I read that a lot of these defamation libel cases involving the tabloids don’t go very far.

Most celebrities don’t file lawsuits against these tabloids because they don’t want to draw more attention to the magazine causing even more people to read it.

Also, many attorneys know that the settlements for these cases are low and usually only cover the cost of the litigation.

These are hard cases to win because you have to prove that there was malicious intent and the tabloids can simply say that their sources informed them that the information was factual.

The only defamation case that I remember was the Carol Burnett case against the Enquirer. This was years ago and I have not heard of any other defamation cases since.

cupcake15
Post 3

SauteePan -I just wanted to say that I hope everything works out for you Anon127927. I know that defamation of character occurs when the person’s reputation is irreparably harmed. But there are many instances in which the person accused of defamation might have legal standing to make such arguments.

Opinions and things that you believed were facts are not defamation. If for example you go to a restaurant and print a negative review this will negatively affect the restaurant’s business but your words are merely an opinion and you can’t be sued for having an opinion.

Also if you print something that you honestly believed to be true this is also not defamation because the defamation definition requires malicious intent.

If you believe something to be true then there is no malicious intent. But if you spread false rumors intentionally then this is defamation. For example, accusing a coworker of having an affair with the boss without actual proof is defamation because the rumors can hurt the boss and the employee accused. Furthermore, you cannot rely on the issue that you believed it was a fact because you do not have proof that the boss and employee are engaged in an affair.

SauteePan
Post 2

Anon127927 - I am so sorry you are facing a defamation suit like this. I understand that the penalties for defamation might be different in the United States than in the Philippines but you should give your defamation attorney all of this information so that he could defend you the best way possible.

Maybe the case is not as hopeless as you think or maybe he can settle the case for you so that you do not have to have this hanging over your head.

anon127927
Post 1

my cousin took me and my husband for oral defamation but when we got to the court the judge acquitted my husband but kept me. since my cousin filed that case, she is working abroad and keep sending money to the lawyer and we overheard that her lawyer give money to the judge to find me guilty and now we are still fighting but we have gone to the supreme court. why in the philippines is oral defamation a criminal case while here in usa is only a misdemeanor.

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