Freedom of speech only goes so far. If another person tells lies about you that causes you harm, you may have a claim for damages. This type of case is generally known as defamation. When someone defames you using spoken words, that’s called slander; libel is defamation in print.
A defamation claim only is available if what the other person says is actually false—truth is an absolute defense to defamation. Similarly, if it’s just an opinion, it’s not defamation. You also cannot sue for defamation based on a joke—if it’s so ridiculous no one would believe it is actually true, it’s not defamation.
Libel & Slander Lawsuits in Texas
If you are a public figure—politician, athlete, celebrity or the like—it is very unlikely you would be able to win a defamation claim. A public figure needs to be able to prove that the defendant published false information either not knowing or not caring whether it was false. This can be done, but is not successful very often.
For most of us, winning a defamation case is a little bit easier—but still quite difficult. You still need to prove that the false statement was communicated to a third person and causes damage to your reputation. Also, the person who communicated the false statement (the defendant) needs to have acted negligently—without being careful. Purely accidental publication of damaging untruths is not defamation.
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