Who do I remind you of?
I was told today that I reminded someone of a film and tv star. It turns out they meant Donald Duck, because a bad bout of laryngitis has left me with a very rough sounding voice.
I like to think I have a sense of humour and the comment certainly made me smile, even if it wasn’t particularly original, but I know people who would almost certainly take offence and one or two who would even consider it an insult.
Whilst even my most sensitive of contacts would not consider this to be a defamatory comment, it still amazes me how often I am asked to advise on potentially defamatory matters which are actually nothing of the kind.
One of the biggest problems with a defamation claim is whether the person saying/writing their views honestly and genuinely believes that what they are saying is true. If the person who said I sounded like a duck really thought I sounded like a duck, then that’s not defamation. In all honesty, I probably do sound rather Donald like, so even if my feelings were hurt (which they weren’t) that doesn’t amount to defamation.
Another problem is communication. For a comment to be defamatory, it has to have been heard/read by a third person. So if the comment is made to me alone, and no one else was nearby, that cannot be defamation. So, my son walking into the kitchen this morning, laughing at my voice, calling me Donald, and then walking out, is not defamation. To be honest, it makes a pleasant change from him calling me shorty (he’s nearly a foot taller than me and keeps putting my mug on the top shelf where I can’t reach it, which I’m sure is just to stop me asking him to empty the dishwasher!)
Possibly the most significant hurdle to overcome is whether the comment or words changed other people’s opinion of me, so that they thought less of me than they had previously. Some may say that sounding like a Disney character might make people think more of me! But it might depend on which character. Personally, I always relate to Bugs Bunny – there is something very appealing about his particular brand of mischief that I can relate to. Either way, I don’t think I can honestly say that someone calling me a cartoon character is going to make a difference to my life.
Kleyman & Co Solicitors. The full service law firm. More reliable than wishing on a star!