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When You Sue For Defamation, Make Sure You Know What Defamation Means

judge's gavel.

If you decide to manufacture a defamation suit against someone you once did business with, you’d better make sure the purported defamation wasn’t warranted, and that someone really did lie about your moral character or your actions. That’s the reality one Manhattan attorney is dealing with after his expectations were shattered when a judge trashed his bogus lawsuit, implying he was a “lowlife” in the process.

The Manhattan Supreme Court Justice who made the final decision was Arlene Bluth, and she had a lot to say on the subject. A third-party disciplinary committee had already decided that plaintiff Robert Cardali was effectively stealing money from the clients whom he was supposed to represent, charging them a whopping third of any victory monies while also stealing more when work needed to be done by another firm. This was how the man was “defamed.”

When Cardali fired his associate, Richard Slater, the latter went on to find evidence of wrongdoing after communication with one of Cardali’s clients. The man believed he had been charged for work that had not been done, and Slater agreed. Slater approached Cardali to ensure the client was properly compensated for the unfair charge, but Cardali refused to pay him back. Slater then went behind Cardali’s back to contact yet another lawyer working for Cardali’s firm, believing his own reputation had potentially been harmed by the wrongdoing.

Cardali fired back with the defamation lawsuit.

Here’s the thing about defamation lawsuits: they need to be based on evidence that the person defaming you wasn’t telling the truth. Justice Bluth acknowledged that anyone able to read Slater’s note about Cardali would have in fact recognized that Slater believed he was a “lowlife or a dishonest person.” Cardali was indeed dishonest in his business practices, and seemed to be stealing from clients. That much was obviously true. When Slater said as much, he didn’t seem to exaggerate or lie about what Cardali had done, and therefore he did nothing to qualify as the perpetrator of defamation.

Naturally, Cardali is in the process of appealing what appears to be a valid decision.

Generally, defamation can be divided into two categories: spoken and written. Spoken defamation is referred to as slander, while written defamation is considered a form of libel. Either way, the claims must be false and intended to harm a person’s character in order to be classified as defamation.

Cardali in order to prove his defamation suit would need to show exactly how his reputation was damaged as a result of Slater’s actions. In other words, did he lose business? Did friends and family treat him differently or unfairly as a result? If he could have proved that Slater was spreading false rumors that had hurt his earning potential or his capacity to acquire new clients, then perhaps Cardali would have had something for the judge. Alas, he was unable to do anything but prove his own guilt.

Whether or not Cardali’s practice has suffered as a result of the defamation–or, more likely, the defamation lawsuit levied against Slater–is not yet known. What is known is that there are probably better attorneys practicing personal injury law who won’t bother to rip you off when they’re done defending your case or fighting to grant you fair compensation for injuries sustained.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.

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