Can a person sue another for slander or defamation of character?

Sister has tried to remove me from the family due to a recent death of a loved one. Our Aunt’s husband had passed away and that left the Aunt unprotected. Our sister has moved our Aunt from her home in California and moved her into her home in Illinois. Our Aunt is worth millions of dollars and our sister is doing everything she can to alienate the Aunt from her siblings. No one is allowed to speak to our Aunt. Just recently, while I was away, my sister accused me of child molestation. I need to know if there is a way to protect myself from her accusations and to protect my Aunt from her manipulation?

Asked on November 4, 2017 under Personal Injury, Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Based on what you write, you can sue your sister for defamation. (Slander is essentially spoken or oral defamation; libel is written defamation). Defamation is the making of untrue factual statements or assertions (such as that you committed child molestation) about a person, which statements damage his or her reputation. You could sue for a court order barring your sister from making these statements as well as for monetary compensation.
You can't due anything to protect your aunt, assuming that she is mentally competent (even if potentially vulnerable due to her husband's death): a competent  adult  can make her own decisions, such as where to live and with whom, who to listen to and believe, whether to speak to other family or not (remember: you aunt could call you if she wanted), etc. They may be frankly stupid decisions, but they are still hers to make. If you believe she is mentally incompetent, in theory, you could ask the court to appoint a legal guardian for her, to make decisions for her and manage her affairs, but that can be a complicated, expensive option: speak to an elder law attorney to get more information about whether it is appropriate in this case and what would be involved in pursuing this.

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

You can sue your sister for defamation.  Defamation is a false statement made with knowledge of its falsity communicated to a third person who recognizes the defamatory content and the statement is injurious to your reputation.
Slander is spoken defamation.
Libel is written defamation.
You can seek damages (monetary compensation) in a lawsuit against your sister for defamation. You can recover damages for emotional distress, loss of friends and associates, physical illness (if applicable). Each repetition of the defamatory statement is actionable in a lawsuit for defamation. You can also seek punitive damages (a substantial amount) to punish your sister's wrongful conduct in your lawsuit for defamation.
Your sister's undue influence over your aunt would be grounds for challenging your aunt's Will in the future. As for your sister's current "manipulation" of your aunt, you may want to contact Adult Protective Services because isolating and manipulating your aunt most likely includes financial abuse which is elder abuse.


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