In December 2011, John Connelly Jr. was allegedly the victim of slander when another guest at the elegant black-tie dinner they were both attending accused him of poisoning his wife to death, according to Courthouse News Service. The guest, Scott W. Ryan, in the middle of the dinner declared in a loud voice that he had personal knowledge that Connelly murdered his wife by poisoning her, reports Courthouse News.
This is an amazing example of a defamation suit that actually has merit. Usually when someone cries "slander!" or "libel!" it is because they don't want the truth of their wrongdoing to be brought out into the light, or it is just a case of name-calling. However, as you'll see, defamation requires more than just an insult.
To succeed in a defamation lawsuit, you have to show that a statement was made to another person beside you or the person speaking, that the statement caused actual injury to your reputation, and that the statement was false. Slander is a type of defamatory statement that is spoken and not written down (libel is written down).
Here, Ryan is pretty close to having a solid case against him. He made a possibly defamatory statement, as accusing someone of a serious crime like murder will clearly harm a person's reputation. Ryan made the statement in front of an audience, and probably made people think twice about doing business or associating with Connelly.
However, there is the question of whether the statement was true and whether there actually was any harm to Connelly. It would be difficult to know if there is truth to the statement, considering Connelly's ex-wife died in 2002 and Ryan made his statement in 2011. This bodes well for Connelly, because to defend himself, Ryan would need to prove the truth of his statement.
Connelly's difficulty will be showing that he was harmed by the statement. There are no facts showing that Ryan was a trustworthy source of information, or on the other hand, that he was thought to be crazy and not to be believed.
Scott W. Ryan will have his work cut out for him defending this slander lawsuit as John Connelly Jr. is one of the few that may have actually been harmed by the sudden outburst of another guest at a black-tie dinner.