In a libel per se
claim, a plaintiff does not have to show actual damages. Instead, the libelous statement is deemed to be so injurious in itself that the jury is permitted to determine, on its own, just how much damage it caused. For instance, if I say "Tooltime
has AIDS and is spreading it all over town," you wouldn't have to prove that you've suffered any pecuniary loss in order for the jury to award you damages.
In a libel per quod
claim, a plaintiff must show actual damages because the libelous statement is not the kind that we presume to be injurious. For instance, if I say "Tooltime
is divorced," that's not the kind of statement that would normally be considered injurious. In your particular circumstances, however, it might damage your business or reputation. In that case, you'd have to prove actual monetary damages.
Of course, someone who alleges libel per se
can still plead and recover actual damages, and if someone alleges actual damages they'd have to prove them. It's just not necessary. Your ex-boss, then, could say "because of Tooltime
's statement, I lost 25% of my store sales and my reputation has been injured." She would have to prove the amount of the lost sales, but the jury could decide for itself how much your ex-boss's injured reputation is worth.
Rather than guessing what kind of libel charge you're facing, you should be able to tell what is being alleged by reading your ex-boss's complaint. If you don't have a copy of the complaint, your attorney should give you one.