Defamation can cause huge issues for professionals, businesses, and individuals whose work involves maintaining their good reputation. From an accountant finding that they are the target of a conspiracy theory website to blog posts spewing unfounded opinion as fact, defamation is all over. The internet makes this content quicker to spread, easier to legitimize, and much harder to erase.
Libel is a written defamatory statement, including any comment written on the internet. While letters to the newspaper can be problematic, libel has become an increasing issue in this day of self-publishing, blogs, and internet archives. As more and more businesses rely on trust systems to prove their reputations to customers (from Yelp! Reviews on dining to an Airbnb review of a tenant), damaging statements can increasingly cause problems.
Remember, however, that truth is an absolute defense to libel. So if a review online says your business did a certain thing that did, in fact, happen, then their comment online isn’t libel. Trust-based review systems have complicated systems to allow businesses to contest reviews, but will let negative but accurate reviews stand.
Slander, meanwhile, is a spoken statement made to a third party (someone other than the person being slandered). This could be a comment made from one person to another in a business meeting, at a cocktail event, or another place where gossip quickly supplants fact. Sharing untrue stories of a coworkers’ unethical or simply inappropriate behavior may get the coworker in trouble and could lead to a charge of slander.
What Can You Do?
First, except in specific cases, you have to be able to prove that you were damaged because of the defamatory content. A campaign of improper negative online content, for example, is a clear example of a libel action with damages. A business could easily prove that before the online content was posted, they had a certain amount of revenue and after the libelous content, their revenue went down a certain amount, showing clear economic damages.
If you think your business is the victim of libel or slander, reach out to a business litigation attorney to discuss whether you have a cause of action and what steps you might want to take. The simplest situations are often resolved with a letter from your attorney telling them to cease their speech or make basic reparations to your reputation. A more complex option involves pursuing a lawsuit in an effort to stop the problematic speech or prove that it was inappropriate.
Because their litigation work focuses primarily on business issues, our lawyers are familiar with the nuances of Utah laws as well as federal laws and regulations. To learn more, reach out to the Dunn Law Firm by calling (435) 628-5405 and set up a free consultation today.