Defamation of character is the maligning of one’s character. Texas law breaks defamation of character into two separate causes of action depending on the form of the offensive conduct. Written defamation of character constitutes the tort of libel. Oral defamation of character constitutes the tort of slander.
The elements of both libel and slander are the same. The plaintiff in a libel and/or slander case must prove that the Defendant (1)knowingly or negligently, (2) made false, (3)defamatory statements, (4) which caused damages to the plaintiff. For a more detailed analysis see Brown v. Swett & Crawford of Texas, Inc., 178 S.W.3d 373(Tex. App. – Houston(1st Dist.) 2005, no pet.). It is not necessary that the Plaintiff prove that the Defendant had actual knowledge of the falsity of the statement as long as there is proof that the statement was made negligently. If there is evidence that the statements were made with actual knowledge of their falsity then the Plaintiff may also have a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Practitioners should pay special attention to the statute of limitation is libel and slander cases. While most tort claims in Texas have a two year statute of limitations, the Texas Practices and Remedies Code Section 16.002(a) provides a one year statute of limitations for libel and slander claims.