Can You Sue Someone for Talking Bad About Your Business?
Can You Sue Someone for Talking Bad About Your Business?
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Can You Sue Someone for Talking Bad About Your Business?
When someone makes false statements about your business, you may sue them for slander. From a legal standpoint, the word “slander” refers to oral or spoken defamation. However, to file a lawsuit for slander, you must have been present or overheard the slanderous remarks from the speaker.
The issue of slander is usually complicated. Although someone might have made negative remarks about your business, you will need to prove that these statements damaged your reputation or that of the business. To do this, you will need the help of an experienced defamation attorney.
That is where Morgan & Morgan defamation of character attorneys come in.
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Can I Still Sue if They Claim to Have Made an Opinion, Not a Fact?
There is a thin line between opinion and fact in defamation cases. Many defendants have claimed that they were simply expressing their opinion. Such claims are made when an individual is sued for slander. That said, for a statement to be considered an opinion, it must:
- be a matter of public concern;
- be expressed in a way that makes it challenging to establish whether it is factual or not, and;
- not be reasonably interpreted as a fact.
How Can I Prove Slander?
The requirements for proving slander or defamation vary from state to state. Generally, the plaintiff must prove that:
- The defendant made a statement
- The statement was spoken
- The statement harmed the defendant (in this case, their business)
- The statement was false
- The statement was not privileged
What Is a Privileged Statement?
Before suing someone for making negative comments about our business, you will need to consider whether it was a privileged statement. A privileged statement is the kind of statement an individual is allowed to make at that particular time, even if it is defamatory.
There are two types of privilege: absolute and qualified privilege.
What Is Absolute Privilege?
When someone has the absolute privilege to make a statement, the law protects them at that time. This protection applies even if the statement they made was defamatory. Examples of absolute privilege include statements made:
- By high government officials
- During a court hearing
- In between spouses
- By lawmakers during legislative sessions
- By politicians at political rallies
What Is Qualified Privilege?
When someone has qualified privilege to make a statement, they have a certain degree of legal protection. However, this does not mean they enjoy complete protection from defamation lawsuits.
Instead, the circumstances under which the statements were made will come into play when deciding whether they were defamatory. Examples of such statements include:
- Testimonies made during legislative sessions
- Statements made in self-defense to warn others against potential harm or danger
- Statements containing fair criticism or review
- Statements made by an ex-employer to a potential employer regarding a particular employee
- Statements made in governmental reports or official sessions
What Should I Do if Someone Made Slanderous Statements About My Business?
Slander is usually challenging to prove. Unlike libel, which involves written defamatory statements against an individual or entity, slander involves oral statements. Therefore, it is usually one person's word against the other in most cases.
In other words, slander is more difficult to prove because it does not offer solid evidence like libel does (in the form of written statements). However, it is still possible to prove slander.
To establish slander, you must prove:
- The exact words the individual said about you or your business
- When they made the defamatory statement
- How they made the defamatory statement (orally in this case)
- Where they made the defamatory statement
- Who they made the defamatory statement to
In addition to proving the elements discussed above, here are additional steps to follow:
- Document how the slanderous remarks affected your business or your personal life. For example, say you lost many customers since defamatory remarks were made against your business. In that case, the loss of clients can be used as evidence to prove the effects the statement had on your business.
- If possible, you should obtain hard evidence of the slander. Examples of hard evidence that could be used in such a case include video and audio recordings.
- Next, contact an experienced defamation attorney. The attorney will review the specifics of your case to determine whether you have legal grounds to sue the other party for defamation. If you have the right to sue, the lawyer will let you know how to proceed with your claim. In most cases, if the case is valid, the attorney will file a defamation lawsuit on your behalf.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Filing a Defamation Lawsuit?
Most states have a two-year statute of limitations for filing a defamation lawsuit. However, note that this deadline varies from state to state. For example, Washington has a two-year deadline. On the other hand, Texas has a one-year time limit. This clock begins to run from the date you knew or should have known that the other party made the defamatory remarks.
For this reason, you should immediately contact an experienced defamation attorney if you believe you have a valid case against the other party. If you take too long to contact an attorney, you risk losing your right to sue the other party.
In addition, keep in mind that slander or defamation, in general, is a difficult case to prove. Therefore, contacting an attorney early enough gives them enough time to build a strong case.
What Damages Can I Recover?
When you sue for slander, you could recover economic and non-economic damages.
For example, when someone makes defamatory statements against your business, you could recover:
This claim covers the income you would have made through your business had it not been for the defamatory statements. When you file such a claim, you allege that the business suffered significant losses due to the remarks, and you could not earn a decent income as you used to before the defendant made those statements.
Loss of Business Income
You could file this claim if your business lost significant income due to the defendant's remarks about you or the business. You may also be eligible for compensation if the defendant's comments made it impossible for you to conduct business in that particular location, leaving you with no choice but to shut down the business.
You could also recover medical bills if you suffered mental or emotional distress and needed treatment to manage the condition. As a result, you may recover compensation for your past, current, and future medical expenses. Examples of medical expenses for defamation victims include the cost of therapy, counseling, depression or anxiety medication, or treatment for high blood pressure.
The non-monetary damages you may be able to recover will depend on the unique circumstances of your case. In the past, plaintiffs in defamation lawsuits have recovered the following non-economic damages:
You could also recover compensation for other expenses, such as
- Attorney fees
- Costs to mitigate the reputational damage
- Dilution of intellectual property
- Emotional distress
- Reduced social ties
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Mental anguish
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Suppose the case goes to court and the judge or jury determines that the defendant was extremely reckless with their statements about the plaintiff. In that case, the court might award the plaintiff punitive damages. These damages are designed to punish the defendant for their recklessness or gross negligence and warn others against such conduct.
Who Is Responsible for the Compensation?
In defamation lawsuits, you can recover compensation directly from the defendant. You may also recover compensation from the defendant if they have insurance policies that protect them from such lawsuits.
Since defamation laws are complex, consider hiring an experienced defamation lawyer.
The attorney will review the unique circumstances of your case and help determine the amount of compensation you may be entitled to. Then, they will help identify where to collect compensation if you win the case.
Keep in mind that a defamation attorney has your best interests in mind. For this reason, they will always devise ways to maximize your claim.
How Much Compensation Can I Recover if I Win a Defamation Lawsuit?
The amount of compensation you may recover will depend on the unique circumstances of your case. Since each defamation case is different, consult an attorney to learn more about what to expect if you win.
That said, it is also important to remember that the compensation you may be entitled to will depend on factors such as:
The nature of the defamatory remarks: This refers to the general circumstances of the case.
The amount of evidence: One of the greatest challenges of filing a defamation lawsuit is that such claims are difficult to prove. In addition, there is a thin line between defamation and personal opinion. As discussed earlier, some individuals enjoy a certain degree of protection when they make certain statements. Therefore, you will need extraordinary evidence to prove defamation.
Again, an experienced defamation attorney can help gather the evidence you need to win such a case.
Whether the statement was malicious: When someone makes malicious statements about you or your business, it means they knew or should have known about the consequences, but that alone could not stop them.
In other words, they intended to harm you or your business by making those statements. For this reason, the amount of compensation you may be entitled to will depend on whether the other party made these statements out of malice. If they did, the judge or jury might award you a higher settlement to punish the defendant and warn others in a similar situation against such conduct.
What Are Some Possible Defenses in a Defamation Lawsuit?
Since defamation cases are complex, you should not expect the other party to accept liability without a fight. They will likely defend themselves just as hard as you will fight for your right to compensation. That said, some possible defenses to a defamation lawsuit include the following:
The defendant's statement was more of an opinion than a fact: Earlier, we mentioned that you cannot sue someone for their own opinion even if you disagree with it. And since there is a thin line between defamation and opinion, the defendant will likely use this defense to avoid liability.
The defendant's statement was true: You cannot sue someone for making statements about you or your business if they prove their remarks are true. For example, if someone says that there is an outbreak of rats in your restaurant and you lose clients, you may sue them for defamation if their statements are false.
However, if they have video evidence proving that there's actually a rat infestation at the restaurant, then the statement will be considered true. As a result, you will lose your right to sue.
The defendant had absolute privilege: Individuals with absolute privilege are exempted from a defamation lawsuit. For instance, courts offer witnesses absolute privilege during a trial to protect them from defamation lawsuits and also encourage them to testify without fear.
The defendant withdrew the statements: You can still sue the defendant even if they withdrew their statement by issuing a public apology. But, unfortunately, the settlement will likely be much less.
Damaged Reputation? You Deserve Compensation.
Someone's reckless statements could ruin your life, business, or both. When you find yourself in such a situation, you may be overwhelmed with emotions, not knowing what to do next.
At Morgan & Morgan, we understand the pain of working so hard on your business or personal goals only to see them crumbling due to someone's reckless remarks. For this reason, when you're feeling hopeless and defenseless, we can fight for you to ensure you receive the compensation you need and deserve to bounce back.
Discuss your case with an experienced defamation attorney by filling out our free case evaluation form.