It is probably no secret to you that the words you say have repercussions, especially if those words are not particularly nice. But what you may not know is that you can potentially be sued for the words that you say, or even the gestures that you make, if the person about whom you make the statements can show that they are false and that you have injured his or her reputation. Making a false statement about a person in the presence of at least one other person is called slander and is actionable in a court of law. You can best protect yourself if you know what to look for and what to avoid.
How to Protect Yourself Against Slander.
Consider your words and your audience before speaking. You can be found liable for slander if it is shown that your statement was made in front of even one other person in addition to the person you made the statement about. Protect yourself by keeping a lid on your temper and not making indiscriminate statements.
Contact an attorney if you believe that you may become a party to a slander action. You will get the best advice from a lawyer who is knowledgeable about First Amendment, free speech issues. The best way to protect yourself against a defamation action, is to have exceptional representation.
Determine if your statements are privileged and therefore not subject to slander actions, by reviewing information regarding the elements of a slander/defamation action, as well as defenses against such actions, at Findlaw online (see Resources below). There are certain circumstances in which statements made against another person cannot be deemed slander, but these are limited.
If the statement that is made cannot be understood by anyone else (for example, the other people present do not speak the language in which you have made the statement) except for the person about whom you make the statement, then it is not considered slander since there cannot be an injury to the other person's reputation.
In most cases, the plaintiff (the person bringing the suit) in a slander action must show that their reputation has been harmed by the false statement made regarding them. But in a few situations, harm is assumed just by showing that the statement is false. This is called slander per se. Such statements include stating that a person has a loathsome social disease; that a woman is unchaste; that a business or professional person is dishonest or lacks basic skills; or that a person has been found guilty of a crime.