In my years as an Atlanta and Marietta Business Attorney, I have found the area of Georgia Slander Legal Proceedings, and the First Amendment very intriguing. Under Georgia legal statutes, slander is a form of defamation that is punishable by law.
Slander occurs when a person makes a spoken statement, with negligence or malice, which is false.
The statement can damage an individual’s or business’ reputation and can be made during a conversation with one person or in front of a large audience. Statements that are true and can be proven as such, despite the negative impact of those statements, are not considered slander and cannot be considered in a Georgia defamation case. Additionally, statements that contain small inaccuracies, but that were made with good intention, will usually be overlooked by the court. This is true as long as the statement’s fundamental essence is not false.
Some statements are protected from being classified as slander due to “privilege,” but only if not made maliciously. In Georgia, privileged statements include comments regarding the actions of public officials. Attorneys also are given privilege to make statements that may be considered false by opposing counsel during the course of working on legal cases. Similarly, business people are afforded some margin of error in making statements about others. The court is likely to dismiss a single instance of false commentary about a third party, as long as that statement is not about a general incompetence, ignorance or lack of ability of that individual or business.
Federal law currently dictates the treatment of public figures in Georgia defamation cases. The premise is that these public figures, such as politicians and celebrities, have chosen a life that is subject to a certain level of public scrutiny. As a result, the plaintiffs in these defamation cases must prove that statements were made with true malice and disregard for the truth. In defamation cases involving private figures, federal law defers to state law. Private figures may collect damages in Georgia defamation lawsuits, by proving that the defendant intended simple negligence, and not necessarily malice.