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What You Need To Prove To Win A Defamation Lawsuit

by Olufisayo
defamation lawsuit

Has a competitor ever bad-mouthed your business online?
How about a disgruntled customer?
Did an anonymous poster say something on an Internet forum that caused your stock or startup to sink?

If you have suffered the pangs of a vicious business rumor or accusation, you may have thought about filing a trade libel or defamation lawsuit.

But the question is: do you have a valid case?

defamation lawsuit

What You Need To Prove To Win A Defamation Lawsuit

Libel (written defamation) and slander (spoken defamation) are a lot more than a negative comment. In order for plaintiffs to win slander or libel lawsuits, they must prove that:

  1. The defendant made an unprivileged, verifiably false statement of fact about them;
  2. The statement at issue made it into the public discourse;
  3. The material under review caused the plaintiff material or reputational harm; and
  4. The defendant either acted with actual malice or negligently.

Is There A Difference Between Online and Offline Defamation?

Generally speaking, the same rules apply for both online and offline slander and libel. Whether a defamatory statement appears on a website or in a print publication, plaintiffs must satisfy the four base elements of defamation, as it is legally defined, to win a case.

However, technical differences in how the fundamental law is applied do arise in online defamation cases. For example, since the viral nature of the Web means an increased likelihood of re-publication, questions about statutes of limitations often become a bigger deal in Internet libel cases than traditional print-media libel lawsuits.

Remember: Opinion Is Not Defamatory, But Lying Is

The First Amendment means U.S. citizens can gripe, opine and air truthful dirty laundry to our hearts’ content. If we have a bad experience with a business, we can yell about it on Yelp! or RipOffReport. If we think a political candidate is the second-coming of Joffrey Baratheon, we can share our opinion with the Twitterverse, without fear of repercussion.

But there are limits to free speech: you can’t scream fire in a crowded room, and you can’t lie about a competitor or adversary, in an effort to harm their reputation.

Defamation Crib Sheet: The 5 Basic Things To Remember About Defamation Law

  1. It’s not defamation (slander / libel) if it’s true. (This is true 99% of the time. Moreover, other torts can be used for private information unwittingly made public.)
  2. It’s not defamation if it doesn’t cause material harm or harm to a reputation.
  3. It’s not defamation if the statement in question is “privileged”.
  4. It’s not defamation if the plaintiff can’t sufficiently prove actual malice or negligence on the part of the defendant.
  5. It IS defamation to haphazardly publish or broadcast a false statement of fact that causes harm to another party.

Businesses compete – and well they should. But there is a difference between being aggressive and being underhanded. Defamation falls in the latter category.

 What You Need To Prove To Win A Defamation Lawsuit

This post is sponsored by Kelly Warner. I was invited to this opportunity by Quality Blue Community and I received compensation for my time. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Source: www.BusinessDefamation.com

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