If you have a business defamation case, the Mullen Law Firm may be of service to you. We can provide a solid defense in your case. Call us for consultation today.
What Is Business Defamation?
Reputation is valuable for a company’s market value and business opportunities. Therefore, companies work hard to protect their reputation and goodwill.
Business defamation occurs when a false statement is made against a company causing them financial harm. A defamatory statement may be made verbally (slander) or in writing (libel).
These defamatory statements often damage the business’s reputation. They could result in the loss of clients, revenue or even lead to bankruptcy.
You may be eligible to seek compensation if someone made false statements against your company. A reputation management lawyer can analyze your case and advise you on your legal options.
Business Defamation Law
- Defamation is a type of tort claim, and it varies from state to state.
- New Jersey and New York courts take defamation seriously, especially when it involves public figures. A public figure must show that there was actual malice or reckless disregard when prosecuting a defamatory statement.
- The First Amendment of the Constitution protects individuals’ freedom of speech. Therefore, individual opinions will not meet the grounds for a defamation lawsuit. This makes defamation claims harder to prove.
- Business defamation claims can also arise from content made online. For example, making false social media posts about a company’s products. Further, internet defamation consequences can be harmful to an individual or company’s reputation.
- The statute of limitations for business defamation cases in New Jersey and New York is one year.
Elements of a Business Defamation Claim
A company suing for defamation usually has to show that certain elements exist. These are:
- That a false statement was made about the business;
- That it was published to a third party without privilege or authorization;
- That the fault amounted to malicious intent or at least negligence;
- That the statement caused special harm or defamation.
Examples of Business Defamation
The following are examples of scenarios where a claim of business defamation may arise:
Making false publications about a company manipulating its tax returns;
Stating that a business was founded through illegal means, e.g., trafficking drugs;
False statements that a business is involved in illegal activities;
Making false reviews on a consumer review website, e.g., Trip Advisor or Yelp;
Falsely accusing a restaurant of poisoning your food;
Making false complaints on a social media website, e.g., Instagram or Twitter;
Making false reports that a company sponsors illegal activities;
An untrue statement that a company makes its products with harmful chemicals;
Writing false reports on a professional networking website, e.g., LinkedIn.
Can a Company Sue for Defamation?
A business owner can file defamation lawsuits against the alleged maker and all publishers of the false statement. But, the company must satisfy the legal requirements for defamation.
The company must show that the statement deterred others from dealing with it. And as a result, it has suffered serious financial harm. The harm suffered must be a direct result of the false and malicious statement.
In determining special harm, the court will treat each case based on its facts. For instance, if a false statement against a large business results in the loss of a few clients. Then, in that case, a business losing a few clients may not meet the “special harm” requirement.
In contrast, a small business that losses a few high-value clients may meet the “special harm” requirement. An experienced defamation lawyer can provide you with professional legal representation in court.
How Can You Fight a Business Defamation Claim?
A company must prove four elements to bring a successful business defamation suit. In defending a defamation claim, the accused can challenge those elements.
Some common defenses applied in business defamation cases are discussed below.
Proving That the Statement Was Substantially True
A “substantial truth” is an absolute defense in defamation lawsuits. There is no liability for defamation if the statement is proven true.
The courts look at the “gist” of the statement in determining substantial truth.
Consider this. A statement is made that a company was built on drug money. During the investigation, one of the main investors in the company turns out to be a drug trafficker. In this case, the statement that drug money was used to start the business turns out to be true. Therefore, an attorney can use substantial truth as a defense strategy in a case like this.
Proving That the Statement Was an Opinion
The First Amendment protects individuals’ freedom of speech. An opinion is a form of free speech and not a fact.
A statement is classified as an opinion if it can neither be proved nor disproved. Yet it is defamation if a reasonable person would accept it as a statement of fact.
For example, a statement such as “I think their products are harmful to children.” Such a statement cannot form the basis of a defamation claim.
However, if you say, “Their products harm children because my nephew died after using them.” Such a sentence can be considered a statement of fact that can harm the company’s reputation.
Proving That the Statement Caused No Harm
The owner must show that the company suffered financial harm because of the statement. Even if the statements were false, if no one believed them, then no harm occurred. However, the courts may award nominal damages even in cases where no financial harm occurs.
Proving That the Company Consented to the Statement
The business may have agreed to the statement at one point. Further, the consent may have been expressly or implicitly made. This could either be through an interview or by mail.
It is enough that the business was aware of the exact language of the publication. However, the business may have limited consent for a specific time or purpose.
The company must show that the publication of the statement was not approved. They cannot bring a defamation claim if they fail to do so.
Using Statutory Privileges as a Defense
Federal and state laws protect the defense of statutory privileges. These privileges provide immunity to certain defamatory statements from being prosecuted. It protects individuals from liability for statements allowed by law—for example, witness testimonies during a trial.
Damages Awarded in a Business Defamation Lawsuit
A business must show that it suffered damages due to the false statement. There are different types of damages available under different state laws. Courts may award monetary damages to the business for violation of their rights.
Further, the courts will look at the circumstances of the case to determine which damages are applicable. Proving the damages incurred is a challenging process. A skilled lawyer from the Mullen Law Firm can provide you with proper legal representation.
Get in Touch With the Mullen Law Firm
Business defamation claims are complicated. Therefore, consulting an experienced defamation lawyer may be vital.
At the Mullen Law Firm, we take defamation claims very seriously. This is because we know the impact of their consequences.
We can file a business defamation lawsuit on your company’s behalf. We can also identify and remove damaging publications from the internet.
Our lawyers have extensive knowledge of defamation law and work hard to ensure you get the compensation you deserve.
If you believe your business is a victim of defamation, contact us for a free consultation. We have represented clients from all over New York and New Jersey.