Slander is a false, defamatory statement that maligns or harms the reputation of an individual or organization.
Slander is a type of defamation. It's a statement of false information that damages someone's reputation, exposes them to public hatred and ridicule, or causes a loss of income.
It is not the same as offering a negative opinion. Declaring that you don't like someone would not be considered slander. Falsely accusing someone of a crime would be considered slander and a defamation of character.
To prove that something is slander, it must meet certain criteria:
If the injured party is a public figure, such as a politician or a celebrity, a claim of slander must also prove that a statement was made with malicious intent, or a reckless disregard for the truth.
Someone could defend themselves against a defamation case by proving:
While the First Amendment forbids the government from punishing people for what they've said, the concept of freedom of speech doesn't protect you or your business from someone suing you with a defamation claim.
Most slander and libel suits fall under state jurisdiction, with state courts following the common law principles of defamation. It's an area of law that allows a defamation lawsuit without proof of actual harm, or damage to someone's good name. Under American laws, simply demonstrating that a statement was defaming could be enough to prove a case.
Winning special damages is a different story. In the landmark 1964 case New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment limits someone's ability to claim damages in matters of public concern. The court said a claimant would have to prove that someone acted with "actual malice" by publishing false statements about public officials.
General liability insurance covers common business risks, such as third-party bodily injuries and property damage, as well as advertising injuries. If someone sues your business for libel or slander, the defamation insurance included in this insurance policy would help pay your legal defense costs, including a settlement or judgment.
General liability coverage is often the first policy that small business owners buy. Commercial landlords, clients, or lenders might require you to carry this coverage. A general liability policy is strongly recommended if you have any public interaction, from operating a storefront to advertising on social media.