Business Defamation Law: A Legal Definition Free of Legalese

business defamation law 101
What is business defamation? Keep reading to find out.

In the simplest terms, business defamation is the act of spreading false statements of fact (via publication, public speech or broadcast) about a product, business or businessperson, which ultimately causes professional hardship for the target. Under United States Law, negative opinion is not defamatory.

Business Defamation: Legal Elements

In order for a plaintiff to win a business defamation lawsuit, he or she must prove four factors:

  1. The defendant made an unprivileged false statement of fact;
  2. The statement was about the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s business;
  3. The statement caused harm to the plaintiff or plaintiff’s business in a professional capacity;
  4. The defendant acted either negligently or with malice in either broadcasting or publishing the statement.

Actual Malice: Famous People Have To Prove More

When someone commits an act of defamation with “actual malice” it means that said person intentionally slandered or libeled someone or something with the intent of causing harm.

Not every defamation plaintiff, however, has to prove actual malice. Only “public figures” must meet the higher standard of proof when arguing defamation claims. Who counts as a “public figure”? In almost all circumstances, celebrities, politicians and elected official are considered “public figures” in the eyes of the law. In some jurisdictions, any individual who works for the state (including public school teachers) is also considered a “public figure.” Moreover, anybody involved in a popular news story may be considered a “limited purpose public figure.”

Libel vs. Slander: Written Defamation v. Spoken Defamation

There are two types of defamation: libel and slander. Slander is spoken, sung or gestured defamation. Libel is printed or posted defamation.

For example: if person X posts a blog entry claiming that the manager of hedge fund is a thief, said manager may have a case for libel. If the same trash-talking person were a guest on Howard Stern and made the claim on air, it would be slander.

Defamation Per Se: Innate Defamation

In your average defamation lawsuit, a plaintiff must show material harm or damage. In some cases, however, the burden of proof is waived. These types of cases are called defamation per se. What types of accusations qualify as defamation per se? It is when a statement is so egregious that the resulting reputational harm is evident and doesn’t need to be proved. In most jurisdictions, the following things fall under the category of defamation per se:

  • false accusations of a highly contagious or deadly diseases;
  • false accusations of moral turpitude;
  • false criminal accusations; and
  • false accusations of business ineptitude.

If your defamation situation falls into one of the categories above, you simply need to prove that the defendant made the disparaging remark.

Speak With A Business Defamation Attorney

Kelly / Warner Law has helped hundreds of firms and businesses with their professional slander and libel needs. We know the niche  exceptionally well. In many instances, a business defamation situation can be successfully remedied in a matter of weeks. Get in touch with Kelly / Warner today to learn more about your legal options.