What does the word slander mean?

Defamation attorney Jeffry Dougan gives a brief overview of the word slander means.

In Colorado defamation law, there are basically two types of defamation: (1) slander; and (2) libel.  Here, we’ll focus on what the word slander actually means.

If you look at Black’s Law Dictionary, slander means speaking of false and malicious words concerning another, whereby injury results to his (or her) reputation.  In other words, slander is verbal defamation, not written.

If you knowingly say something false about another person and publish it to a third party, then you might be held liable for slander.

Couched as a Statement of Fact

While a statement dressed up as “opinion” can technically be defamatory, usually when we’re talking about slander, we’re talking about a false statement of fact that is defamatory.

Defamatory means that the statement tends to harm the person’s reputation by lowering the person in the estimation of at least a substantial and respectable minority of the community.

Example of Slander

Bob is a car salesman and Tim is his competitor.  Tim is out to lunch with another car salesman, Jake, from the same town and Tim says, “I think Bob is a terrible car salesman.”  Jake, being the two-faced jerk that he is, goes and tells Bob what Tim said.

Is it slander?  No, simply stating an opinion about a person, no matter how ill-informed or colorful, is not slander.

Now, suppose that Tim told Jake, “Bob is a terrible salesman because he steals money from his customers.”

Is this slander? Yes, assuming Bob actually doesn’t steal money from his clients.  If Bob does steal money from his customers, it’s not slander.   Why? Because it’s true.  And the truth is always a defense to a claim of slander.

Make sense?

Now we won’t get into the weeds about slander per se versus slander per quod, or actual damages versus special damages.  And, in addition to the statement being true, there are other defenses that someone charged with slander can raise, depending on the facts of the case.

In closing, slander (spoken) cases are much harder to prove than libel (written) cases, but given the right evidence and a credible witness, they’re not impossible.

Contact Us

If you or a loved one has been slandered and you’ve suffered reputational and/or financial harm as a result, contact Marathon Law today for a FREE case review. 303-704-1222.