Can I Sue a Co-Worker for Accusing Me of a Crime Which Caused Me to Resign?

Full Question:

A worker filed a (false) accident report against me at work. She claimed I bumped her stomach, she was 4 months pregnant, with the back of my chair, waited 26 hours and file a workman's comp. accident report. I was sent for a drug test which proved nothing. However, the stress caused my migraines to increase and I had to take 7 days of my vacation plus another 21 days short term disability. The mother of this girl told her 8 year old son (the girls half brother) I tried to deliberately kill the baby. This boy told repeated these words to my two twin grandchildren ages 11. I have since had to resign my position as assistant manager at the location I was working and take a lower position at another location. Can I sue this woman for slander?
05/10/2010   |   Category: Civil Actions ยป Defamation   |   State: Kentucky   |   #22061

Answer:

The answer will depend on the nature of the acts outside court and what effect they had on you. Statements outside of court falsely and knowingly accusing another of a crime may be considered slander per se ("slander on it's face"). In order to prove a claim of slander per se, you would need to prove the statements made were false and also that the migraines and resignation were not caused by other factors. Defamation is an act of communication that causes someone to be shamed, ridiculed, held in contempt, lowered in the estimation of the community, or to lose employment status or earnings or otherwise suffer a damaged reputation. Such defamation is couched in 'defamatory language'.

It may be considered libel per se (on its face) when a false statement implies you committed a crime. Defamation is a difficult wrong to prove, as there are various factors that are to be taken into consideration. The court must evaluate the defendant’s investigation, or lack there of, concerning the accuracy of the statement. How thoroughly the investigation was handled will reflect upon the nature and interest of the person who communicated the statement. Generally, defamation damages will not be awarded if the defendant had an honest but yet mistaken belief in the truth of the statement. The amount of damages that can be awarded is a matter of subjective determination for the court, based on all the facts and circumstances in each case.

Libel and slander are subcategories of defamation. in order to prove defamation, the plaintiff must prove:

1.; that a statement was made about the plaintiffs reputation, honesty or integrity that is not true;
2.; publication to a third party (i.e., another person hears or reads the statement); and
3.; the plaintiff suffers damages as a result of the statement.

Slander is a form of defamation that consists of making false oral statements about a person which would damage that person's reputation. Some statements while libelous or slanderous, are absolutely privileged in the sense that the statements can be made without fear of a lawsuit for slander.; The best example is statements made in a court of law.; An untrue statement made about a person in court which damages that person's reputation will generally not cause liability to the speaker as far as slander is concerned. Case law from various jurisdictions supports the principle that, generally, information released by the police, including reports and records, is considered to be a report of an official action subject to a privilege against a charge of defamation. To prove defamation it must be shown that the person did not have a belief in the statement made, or failed to make a reasonable investigation into its truth.

For further discussion, please see:

http://www.jud.ct.gov/ji/Civil/part3/3.11-5.htm