Yes, really. The great State of California recognizes a cause of action or lawsuit called slander of title. This type of lawsuit dates all the way back to the mid-1900s where a case in California held that slander of title exists if it is proved that a person made an unprivileged publication of false information about real property (the mid-1900s case had to do with real property only) resulting in a loss of money to the real property owner (or a holder in an interest in real property).
Fast forward to today. Slander of title now protects both real property and personal property. The main purpose for such a lawsuit is to preserve and protect the marketability and value of property. It seems simple enough; however, it is a complex lawsuit and is heavily based upon the evidence of the case.
So what is required? Well, to start with there must be a false statement made about the property. True statements are justified, so it must be a false statement. The false statement must be published. Generally speaking under the law, this does not mean written in a book or magazine. The term “published” under the law, generally means that it must be made to another person other than the plaintiff, the property owner. So this false statement could be a communication or a publication to a third party. Ultimately, the false statement about the property of another must result in a loss of money to the property owner or, as the law calls it, a pecuniary loss. Meaning, proving actual damages or an actual money loss as a result of the disparaging false statement is an essential element of the lawsuit.
As if that were not complicated enough, there is more. There must be no absolute or conditional privilege for the false statement. This is a complex area of the law but what this means is that the false statement must not have been made under one of the exceptions noted by the law, thus making it privileged (e.g., statement made in court as a witness on the stand, statements made by a member of Congress on the Senate floor, etc.). And, there can be other defenses asserted which if proved, mitigate or eliminate liability for slander of title.
So when must you file such a lawsuit? Like most causes of action or lawsuits in California, slander of title does have a statute of limitations, or the time when a lawsuit must be brought or else forever barred (forever prevented from being brought). Slander of title has a three year statute of limitations, meaning the lawsuit must be brought in court within three years from the date the false statement was made or three years from when the property owner could reasonably be expected to know of the existence of the basis for such a lawsuit.
As noted above, this type of cause of action or lawsuit is complex. Any person facing a disparaging statement made about their property which results in actual loss should consult the Chilina Law Firm or another California attorney who practices in real property law and litigation regarding their rights and remedies.
Authored by Greg Chilina Co-Authored by Karen Chilina, October 26, 2015
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