No question that a lying accuser's false allegations of Title IX sexual misconduct can cause the accused student substantial reputational and other harm. How, though, could the accused student recover money damages from the accuser for that harm? The law of defamation generally permits the person harmed by another's false, reputation-lowering statements to recover money damages in a civil court action for that harm. Could defamation liability make a lying Title IX misconduct accuser pay for the accused student's unfair harm?
Uncertain Defamation Law
The prior post showed that the law of defamation is not always clear when an accuser exaggerates and lies during the course of a college or university Title IX proceeding. The case of Khan v Yale University provided the example where the federal court had to ask the state supreme court to rule whether a lying accuser has absolute immunity for statements made unfairly harming the accused student in a private school's Title IX proceeding. Time will tell the nature of that ruling. Some states extend absolute immunity to quasi-judicial proceedings, which might, in theory, include school Title IX proceedings. The answer depends on how state courts apply a list of factors on the proceeding's nature. If absolute immunity does not apply, where the law protects even deliberate lies, then states may offer qualified immunity, where the law protects falsehoods made innocently in good faith. Khan v Yale University asked the state supreme court to answer that question, too.
Reliable Liability Theories
But even if a state extends absolute or qualified immunity to an accuser telling falsehoods in a college or university Title IX proceeding, the accused student may, in some cases, still have a defamation remedy for the reputational and other harm. Absolute or qualified immunity applies only to statements made within the proceeding. Just because an accuser may have immunity to make false statements to Title IX investigators and hearing officers doesn't mean the accuser can spread lies around outside the proceeding. Accusers may commonly share accusations not just with Title IX coordinators, investigators, and officials but also with students, professors, and school staff who have no role in the Title IX proceeding. Accusers may also spread lies around online. Defamation liability could make a lying accuser pay for those broader lies, even if not for lies told within the Title IX proceeding. Other laws, rules, and school policies may also hold the lying accuser responsible for the lies, disciplining the lying accuser rather than the falsely accused.
Premier college misconduct defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm are available both to defend college or university Title IX or other misconduct charges and to evaluate your rights to recover monetarily for the harm caused by an accuser's lies. Don't let a vindictive or vengeful lying accuser destroy your reputation and career. Get national Title IX defense attorney help. Call 888-535-3686 or go online now.