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When Can Lying Lead to a Lawsuit?

Lying can be cruel, underhanded and just plain mean. And yes, it can be the subject of a lawsuit.

Alright, to be fair almost anything can be the subject of a lawsuit. You can file a lawsuit over just about any grievance, but in a lot of those cases that suit will be tossed out before you even get a chance to appear in court.

Lying, on the other hand, is a legitimate legal claim, although in court it's generally called defamation. Not all lying is defamation, but all defamation involves lying.

It's not as confusing as it sounds.

For lies to be the cause of a lawsuit, the statements need to meet certain criteria.

The law is generally about protecting people from harm and trying to fix harm that's already occurred. So to qualify as defamation, the lying must cause some kind of harm. Additionally, the lying statements must have been "published" in some way.

Published in this context means publicized. If the statements were made in print, on television, or even just spoken from one person to another, they could qualify.

But what if the lying happens by mistake? In general, personal injury law doesn't cover accidental harm. What it does cover is negligent harm.

If the person who told the lie knew or should have known the statement was untrue but didn't bother confirming or willfully ignored the facts, he or she can be held responsible.

Here's the catch to the whole thing: There must be actual harm caused. While the words might cause emotional pain, that won't help you win in court. You'll have to show that it cost you money or damaged your reputation.

If you're considering filing a defamation claim against a dirty rotten liar that you know, prepare yourself for a full hearing.

Massachusetts doesn't allow Small Claims Courts to hear defamation cases, which are separated into libel for printed lies and slander for spoken ones. You'll have to bring the case in your local superior court and you'll probably want to get a Boston personal injury attorney to help you.

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