Defamation is a common law tort that can be directed at a person, business, a business owner or employees of a company. The defamatory statement can be written (libel) or spoken (slander). In order to be considered defamation, it must be a false statement of fact, not an opinion, about the business entity or one of its officers or employees. The statement has to be made publicly, as in a newspaper or on the internet, or be spoken to a third party.
The business that has been defamed must prove that it has suffered actual damages — such as lost revenue, diminished ability to hire new employees or decreased business volume — as a result of the false statement.
An investigation to determine the potential impact of a defamatory statement may be necessary. It would include determining the print and online circulation of a newspaper that published the defamatory statement. For a defamatory statement on the internet, a diligent investigator might examine the web traffic for the website that published the statement in question. That examination can count how many “views” were made of the statement and the number “clicks” on the piece containing the statement, thereby showing to what extent the defamatory statement may have spread. If the statement was made on Facebook, Twitter or other social media, the poster’s number of followers is also an indicator of the statement’s reach.
If the defamatory statement was first spoken, the third parties who heard the statement should be located and identified. If the statement was repeated, or otherwise memorialized, the letters, emails, tweets or other communications containing the statement should be tracked down.
Certainly, one of the key components of any business is its reputation in its industry or, for a small business, its community. Once the defamatory nature of the statement is confirmed, the business law attorney representing the company can issue a cease-and-desist letter to the person or entity that made the statement. The attorney can also demand that the person or entity that made the statement issue a retraction. A properly worded retraction might go a long way towards restoring the good reputation of the damaged business and stemming any losses the business is incurring because of the defamatory statement.
The attorneys at Hemmer DeFrank Wessels, PLLC help business clients in Kentucky and Ohio seek relief from defamatory statements made by competitors, former employees, customers and others. To schedule a free initial consultation with our firm, call us at 859-344-1188 or contact us online.