In short, the answer is Yes. You can sue for defamation of character,
and related complaints about your reputation being sullied, with the
possibility of being awarded monetary damages if your suit is
The details differ from one jusrisdiction to the next, and the matter
of which jurisdiction to present a case can become rather complex,
especially when the person filing suit lives in State A, the person
being sued in State B, and the alleged defamation occured in numerous
places involving one or more other states.
However, the basic overview of what constitutes defamation, and what
remedies are available, is quite similar throughout the US, and I'll
concentrate on describing these here.
One thing to point out, though, is the disclaimer at page bottom.
Google Answers is no substitute for professional legal advice, so
please take everything here with the appropriate grains of salt.
That said, let's look at a good overview of defamation, and related
complaints. For starters, take a look at this overview article from
Slander and libel
Even though this article takes an international point of view, it's
still a good starting place to get familiar with the main concepts.
Some take-away points are these:
--defamation involves "...communicating statements that may harm of an
individual's reputation or character".
--slander, for the most part, involves harmful speech, while libel
involves communications in printed form.
--In the US, the slander or libel must generally be demonstrably false
to successfully take action based on defamation.
--However, a false statement alone is not enough to show defamation.
One must also demonstrate a certain meanness of spirit, that is, that
the statement was made even though its author knew (or should have
reasonably known) that it was false.
Some additional quick perspective can be found in the series of
question on defamation that begin here:
Can I sue someone who says or writes something defamatory about me?
...In order to prove defamation, you have to be able to prove that
what was said or written about you was false
In particular, note these questions:
What damages are available for slander or libel?
...If you have been defamed you may seek both actual damages, to
recover the harm that you have suffered, and punitive damages to
punish the person who made the remark
Can I sue for defamatory statements made by a witness under oath in a
...Statements in a judicial proceeding are privileged. A judge, juror,
lawyers, witnesses, or other parties are absolutely protected.
And yet another good overview, nicely presented:
Can I Say That? Defamation Law Made Simple
[Note that you have to click throu several pages to see the entire article]
So, you can in fact sue for damages related to defamation, and these
can be actual damages (such as the cost for lawyers to defend
yourself) as well as punitive damages. However, if the defamatory
statements were not made outside of a courtroom, you'll have a devil
of a time going forward with any sort of a defamation case.
I did not provide specific legal cases, since I did not know what
jurisdiction would be relevant to your particular situation. However,
a previous question here at Google Answers provides some very good
insight into defamation cases in California:
Defamation of Character/Slander
I suggest giving this a careful read.
Please note that defamation isn't the only potential issue in the
situation you describe. The courts recognize that some lawsuits are
troublesome on their face, and can be used as a sort of weapon, rather
than as a means to air a legitimate grievance. These are generally
deemed meritless or malicious lawsuits, and you can sometimes
counter-sue if you feel you've been victimized by such a suit, as in
...A state appeals court has ruled that developer Marvin "Buzz" Oates
can be sued for filing what the court called a meritless and malicious
lawsuit against former partners who won a $7 million jury award
I trust the information provided gives you enough of a background to
better understand the situation you are in, and some of the options at
your disposal. If you need more detailed information, please let me
know by posting a Request for Clarification, and provide some more
details on your situation (bearing in mind that this is a public
forum, and anything you post here is broadly available).
Thanks...and best of luck.
search strategy -- Used bookmarked sites for legal information on defamation.