“Can I be sued for libel if I don’t use the person’s name?”
Sure, it’s tough to win U.S. defamation lawsuits, but yearly, thousands of people win libel cases – even in instances when the defendant doesn’t use names.
The First Amendment Makes Winning Defamation Lawsuits Difficult, But Not Impossible
Thanks to the First Amendment, defamation laws in the U.S. are decidedly defendant-friendly. Unless a statement is blatantly false and has a deleterious effect on a reputation — either personal or business — it’s tough to prove defamation, but not impossible.
Question: Can I be sued for libel if I don’t use the person’s name?
Some people erroneously believe it’s legal to divulge other people’s secrets online. For example, many think that replacing a real name with a fake one is all it takes to get around libel laws.
For example, let’s say you post about a female talk show host, with her own television station, who recently interviewed Lance Armstrong. Expect Oprah Winfrey to sue you. Moreover, expect her to win if (a) what you said was false, (b) you knew it was false and did it anyway, and (c) the statements caused “O” reputational or financial harm.
Even If You Can’t Be Sued For Libel, You Could Be Sued For Something Else
Let’s say the information you post is true. While you would definitely have a stronger defense, it’s not a given that you’ll escape legal censure. Other charges – like false light or various publicity and privacy torts – can be used to go after “truth defamers.”
One Can’t Be Sued For Slander If The SOL Has Expired
Remember to sue before the defamation statute of limitations in your jurisdiction expires. If the incident occurred moons ago, the chances of a judge granting a hearing are between slim and none.
Are you dealing with a slander or libel issue? Kelly Warner Law has experienced great success with various types of defamation lawsuits. Get in touch.