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The Basics of a Defamation Claim

Business and Commercial Disputes By Harvey Binnall PLLC - 2020/12/17 at 12:41pm

Experienced Alexandria Business Dispute Attorney on Your Side

If you or your business has been defamed by someone, then you could face serious professional and commercial repercussions.  Fortunately, the law entitles you to sue and recover damages for defamation.

Defamation can be difficult to understand, so let’s take a brief look at how a defamation claim works at a basic level.

How Does Defamation Work?

To prove defamation, the plaintiff must show:

  • That the defendant published a false statement;
  • That the false statement was interpreted as factual;
  • That the defendant negligently or intentionally made such publication; and
  • That the plaintiff suffered damages as a result.

Damages are often tricky in a defamation case, as the plaintiff must be able to introduce evidence establishing that the defamatory statements are linked to actual financial loss: issues in their professional life (i.e., they were passed over for a promotion, or they have been unable to get a job due to their new reputation), business operations issues (i.e., former partners are unwilling to continue doing business with them, etc.).

Common Defenses

Truthful Statement

Truth is a complete defense in the defamation context.  Simply put, if the defendant can prove that their statement was not actually false, then they cannot be found liable for defamation.

For example, suppose that a defendant publishes a statement online that your dental practice is operating while unlicensed.  You sue the defendant for defamation.  The defendant then argues that their statement is truthful, and introduces evidence that your dental license is expired and has not been renewed.  This would be sufficient to provide a defense to defamation.

Mere Opinion

Opinions do not qualify as defamation, though it’s worth noting that the statement of opinion must be reasonably perceived as an opinion (to excuse the statement and provide a defense to defamation).

For example, if the defendant claims that they believe your company has been engaging in fraud, the court may determine that the statement comes across as a statement of fact (as opposed to opinion) based on the way it was phrased.  Ultimately, the decision will be based on the surrounding circumstances — for instance, statements made in an “editorial column” will be more likely seen as opinion than statements made in a regular news article.

Contact an Alexandria Business Dispute Attorney Today

Harvey & Binnall, PLLC is a boutique litigation firm located in Alexandria, VA, and serving clients throughout the DC metro region.

We have decades of experience working with a range of people and businesses, helping them to resolve complex disputes, including those that center around defamatory statements.  We recognize that defamatory statements can put clients in a vulnerable position, and are committed to advocating relentlessly on their behalf to ensure that their reputation is preserved and losses compensated.

If you would like to speak to an experienced Alexandria business dispute attorney at Harvey & Binnall, PLLC, call us at (703) 888-1943 or send us a message online to request a consultation at your earliest convenience.