Protecting My Good Name: A Short Guide to Defamation Lawsuits
Few things are more offensive than when someone takes down your good name. Someone once said that a lie is half way around the world before the truth even leaves the house. In the age of Twitter and Facebook, this is all the more true.
A few years ago, a client of mine, a salesman, was accused of taking kickbacks. Corruption, in other words. This was said in front of 100 businessman at an annual Chamber of Commerce meeting. My client was humiliated and we initiated a defamation lawsuit. The dollar awarded was not that large but the client was vindicated.
If you have been defamed and if you can clear some serious hurdles, we would be pleased to act for you. We appreciate that these lawsuits are often based on principal and we share in your outrage at the libel you have sustained. That said, not all libels warrant a defamation lawsuit. Many do not, in fact.
Here is what our law firm looks for before taking on a slander or libel case.
The Sting of The Libel
First, were you in fact libelled? To that end, we ask what the absolute worst thing the defendant said about you. This is known as the “sting of the libel”. I like that word. The courts will not care if your boss called you unreliable or if, in an online review, a client said you were miserable. Those are statements of opinion. But to falsely call a real estate agent a thief or to wrongly say that a doctor lost her licence to practice – these are the kinds of statements with a real sting to them.
Second, was that statement completely false? If in fact you had been charged with theft or had your medical license suspended, even if you have your side of the story, a lawsuit will likely fail to launch. The best defamation lawsuits are where the victim of the libel has clean hands. If we ask you if in fact the statement was false and you answer “its complicated”, you likely have no case.
Third, was the speech or statement a protected speech? This usually applies to fairly public figures who are in the news or social media. If a newspaper reporter used some due diligence, got something about you wrong, published it and then published a retraction, you likely have no case. If someone got something wrong about you, but the overall speech or article was in the broad “public interest”, again, you likely have no case.
Public vs Private
Fourth, was the statement broadcasted to more than one person? If I slander Bob to his face and only he hears it, he cannot sue me. If I slander Bob at a party or on line, the statement has been “broadcasted” and he can, all other things being equal, sue.
Finally, does the defendant have any money? Unless you are doing it purely out of principal and are prepared to pay a lawyer’s hourly rate, there is absolutely no sense suing someone without assets.
If your complaint meets these five tests, we would be pleased to act for you. Call or email and let’s discuss.