Defamation is an intentional tort cause of action handled by personal injury lawyers. While most people are aware that a person can be defamed, a business can also bring a case for defamation. The minimum requirements for a defamation claim include:

  1. A statement that is false,
  2. A statement that tends to hold the business up to contempt or ridicule,
  3. A statement that is about the business,
  4. The publication of the statement to others, and
  5. Damages caused by the statement.     

While the elements of a defamation cause of action may appear to be a low bar, many other factors can knock out a defamation claim.

Fair opinions are typically not defamation. “The food at  Joe’s restaurant is bad,” written in an online review is not typically defamation. However, saying “the chef at Joe’s restaurant sells drugs,” is probably defamation. Merely couching phrases with the term “in my opinion” is not conclusive of their status as defamation.

Statements that are true are not defamation. It has been said that truth is an absolute defense to a defamation lawsuit. Once a business owner can show some evidence that a statement is not true, the burden shifts to the defendant to prove the truth of the allegedly defamatory statement.

When the allegedly defamatory statement is made about a matter of public concern or about a public figure, it is far harder to make a claim for defamation. Statements about a business very well may fall under this category. Often it depends on how big the business is and the nature of the statements.

In today’s era of social media, many people want to and threaten to sue for defamation at the drop of a hat, but damages are necessary. While damage to reputation can be real, businesses should work to put together a claim for lost sales or other monetary damages. Sometimes it can be hard to put a dollar figure on damages to business reputation. In many cases the business may want to pursue an injunction to prevent further defamation.

Some of the largest verdicts and settlements in business defamation cases have occurred when one business defames another to gain a competitive advantage. If your business has been defamed, your first call needs to be to a board-certified injury attorney that handles defamation lawsuits.