Do I have grounds for a character defamation suit?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Do I have grounds for a character defamation suit?

I am strongly considering filing a character defamation case against an

individual in my townhouse community who also happens to be the HOA

representative president. I have filed multiple reports for over 2 years regarding harassment and property damage caused by the neighborhood children that this individual has ignored largely because their own children are involved. I have attended several HOA meetings that I have on recording as meeting minutes of this individual dismissing all claims and hard evidence I bring to discussion documenting the many disturbances over the years. In the most recent meeting I attended, this individual finally revealed their intentions by falsely claiming that I said,

Asked on September 21, 2016 under Personal Injury, Maryland


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

In theory, you could bring a defamation suit: defamation is the making of a false statement of fact to other people which damages your reputation. On its face, claiming that you hate children if you don't would be defamation. The problem is, 1) if you have a record of complaints against children, it may be that a court (e.g. a jury) could conclude that your demonstrated behavior does show that you hate children, even if you claim that you don't; and 2) since opinions are not actionable, they may be able to convince a court that what was meant (even if stated clumsily) is that in their opinion, someone who complains as often you do must hate children. In short, your state of mind vis-a-vis children, while in one sense "factual" (you hate them or you don't) is, in another sense, subjective and difficult to quantify; thus, while technically, if you don't hate  children this is a defamatory statement, proving that it's untrue may be difficult, and it may also be difficult to prove that their statement was not in actuality an opinion. This is not a hard-and-fast case of a clearly untrue fact, like alleging you committed theft when you did not. You are not at all guaranteed to win a case like this if you bring it.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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