What is Business Defamation and Can My Company Recover Compensation for Damages?
A company’s reputation is core to its commercial viability. False and/or malicious statements by a third party could cause serious financial harm to a business. In some cases, these types of statements may rise to the level of actionable legal defamation. Here, our West Palm Beach business litigation attorneys explain the basics of a defamation claim along with how much can be recovered in a lawsuit.
What is Business Defamation in Florida?
As described by the Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute, defamation is a false statement that injures the reputation of another party. In order to be legally actionable defamation in Florida, certain elements must be met. Specifically, a commercial plaintiff must prove that:
- The defendant made a false statement that was purported to be a fact;
- The false statement was communicated to third parties;
- The defendant was negligent in making the false statement; and
- Actual damages were suffered as a result of the defamatory statements.
In practice, business defamation claims are challenging. Remember, a company cannot sue another party for leaving a bad review or saying that their services are not worth the price. Those are not false statements of fact, they are opinions—and opinions are, by definition, not a legally actionable form of defamation.
You cannot hold another party liable for an opinion, even if their opinion caused damage to your business or was wholly unreasonable. Defamation must involve a negligent or malicious false statement of fact.
As an example, a restaurant reviewer saying the food was bad—whether or not that opinion was valid—is not business defamation. It is not a statement of fact that can be proved one way or another. On the other hand, a restaurant reviewer falsely stating that a business has failed food safety inspections may be defamatory. That is a factual claim that can be tested.
Damages Available in a Business Defamation Claim
If you can prove business defamation, your company may be eligible to recover damages. In general, damages will be associated to the losses suffered as a result of the defamation. Indeed, the basis of any award will be “actual damages.” This can include things like lost profits and lost income. Of course, one of the many things that makes defamation claims challenging is linking damages to the defamatory statement. Strong evidence is needed. Beyond that, in some cases, businesses may also be eligible to recover compensation for “presumed damages.” These are the reputational damages that are deemed to be inherent, but that cannot be expressly tied to a specific loss. If your business suffered damages after being defamed, you should consult with a lawyer.
Get Help From a Florida Business Litigation Attorney Today
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida business litigation attorneys represent clients in business defamation claims. If you have questions about your legal rights or legal options, we are here to help. To set up a confidential consultation, please call us at our West Palm Beach office or Miami office now.