You can bring a lawsuit for defamation of character if you can establish that a statement was made about you that was published, injurious, false and unprivileged, Nolo explains. The laws vary by state, but these four elements are usually necessary to prove defamation of character. Defamation is a statement that hurts a person's reputation. A written statement is libel, while a spoken statement is slander.
A defamation suit consists of a statement about something said about the plaintiff in writing, pictures, gestures or in a speech, Nolo advises. A published statement is something made available to a third party, such as in loud conversations, gossip, on the Internet or on television. A published statement must be false. False, malicious comments are not considered as defamation. Opinions are also not counted as defamation because there is no way to prove they're false.
An injurious statement is one that causes damage to the plaintiff, explains Nolo. Such a statement would cause friends, family and neighbors to shun the individual or cause him to lose work. An unprivileged statement is one that is not protected by law from defamation claims. Testimony in court is a privileged statement because, even if it's false, injurious and published, it's not a basis for defamation.