Slander, Libel & Evidence question

In a slander case (lets stick with USA law) is it generally required to have the person who the “slanderous” statement was made present to testify, or cooperate with the suit?

Say person A is trying sell something to person B. Person B seeks out and asks questions of person C, who has knowledge of the “something”. No one but B & C are present for that conversation. Person B later declines to purchase. This happens with multiple different Bs - less than 5 however. At no time does person B tell A that their conversation with C has anything to do with their decision.

Later, A files suit against C for defamation, slander & libel, reasoning that the conversations were the reason that the multiple Bs declined to buy. In the suit, A does not provide any contact information for the Bs. Without any evidence or statement from the Bs that the conversation with C was the reason for their decision, does A have any sort of a case at all?

A wants the court (or jury) to believe the failures to buy can only be the result of defamation, slander & libel - without any direct evidence of what was said?

Good luck with that.

Well, if B’s testimony might be enough, especially with independent corroboration (ie., B tells D that he didn’t buy A’s product because of C).

Since B is not a party, which of the eleven million hearsay exceptions would allow D to testify as to B’s out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted?


B is a fact witness.

Oh, I see what you’re saying.

Never mind.

I’m not referring to testimony supplied by D, but a letter from B to D dated prior to the suit, or somesuch.

The letter is still hearsay. As C’s defense attorney, you will be very interested in cross-examining B to establish that there was no publication (in the defamation sense) of slanderous material against A. For instance, you will want to ask B, under oath, did this happen? In what context? Wasn’t it expressed as an opinion? etc. etc.

Also, the suit would probably be for tortious interference rather than defamation.

It may not be admissible because it lacks foundation, but I don’t understand why it would be hearsay. Just because D produces it, instead of B or one of the parties?

Hearsay is any out-of-court statement offered to establish the truth of the matter therein asserted.

B writes in a letter “C uttered these very words to me yesterday: …” That letter is hearsay if it is introduced to establish the truth of the matter therein asserted, namely that C made a defamatory statement about A.

It would be hearsay even if B introduced it. Our concerns regarding hearsay are about the lack of being subject to cross-examination, not just which party is bringing it into court.

There are a lot of provisos and caveats associated with the foregoing however.

Just spitballing an idea here, but wouldn’t it be better for A to bring a claim of tortious interference. Its my understanding that slander/libel is damn hard to prove even without the hearsay issue.

You would have to show first that there was some sort of contractual or business relationship between A and B, and that might be an issue with the facts given. But I think you wouldn’t necessarily have to prove that the conversation between B and C was the reason for the failure of the deal. You’d only have to show that there was intent on the part of C to interfere with the business relationship between A and B.

I’m sure there’s an attorney on the boards who would have a better understanding of contract law, but its something to think about.

B is not involved in the suit. That’s the gist of my question - can slander ever be inferred from 2nd order effects (declining to purchase), or does it always require B to stand up in court and say “C said ‘this’ to me, and because of that I didn’t purchase from A” ? Without B’s cooperation, can the suit proceed, or would it normally be dismissed? Can A subpoena B to testify, if he’s unwilling to do so?


And yes, “publication” (i.e., making the statement to a third party) is one of the elements of defamation and so proving it up is required for a prima facie case.

Aren’t truth and opinion not subject to slander or libel. If you say “[del]OJ[/del]A was on trial for murdering his wife and her friend” and [del]OJ[/del] A was, even if he was found not guilty, it’s still a fact. If you add “But I think he was guilty” it’s an opinion.

If you told someone those two things and they cancelled a contract with [del]OJ[/del]A, could he still sue for slaunder or libel?