When you're in business you are by definition in the public eye. You're not going to shrink back into the shadows as this would be counterproductive, as you want people to talk about you. Yet sometimes that 'talk' gets nasty and other people may say something about you or your business that you feel harms your reputation. Do you have legal recourse?
What Can You Do?
The law allows you to protect your reputation should you feel that others have said things through publication that could cause negative consequences. You have a right to sue for defamation if you feel that others are now shying away from doing business with you or may be ridiculing you as a result of this action.
The definition of defamation is quite clear. The information must be about you specifically. It must also be published or communicated and there should be no 'lawful excuse' for doing so.
Material published about you could be misrepresentative or could be an outright lie, but either way, you have to be able to prove that your reputation has been affected due to this publication or communication. In law, you need to be able to prove that any 'reasonable person' would think so, and this is the position that the court will take.
Before you continue you have to be able to answer some questions yourself, as the legal system will require you to do so if you proceed. You need to look at this objectively and ask whether or not the other party had any justification. Is there any element of truth in what they say at all?
Is It Actionable?
Some cases are quite cut and dried. For example, if certain information was protected by law (like evidence given in a court), then it should never be published by somebody else.
More importantly, you need to be sure the other party wasn't just expressing an opinion, as this can be used by them in their defence in some circumstances. If they can prove that it was 'obvious' to any impartial person that this was 'just' their opinion, then they may succeed. You must also be careful not to proceed if any reasonable person would think that the defamation was 'trivial'.
As it can often be difficult to be impartial when you feel particularly aggrieved in this type of situation, it's a good idea to talk with a lawyer who is experienced in this field for advice.Share
18 November 2016
When you are a small company it can be a little scary to enter into business relationships with much larger companies. Larger companies have a lot more resources to protect themselves if there is a dispute. That's why it's important to have a smart lawyer on your side to help you draft the most watertight agreements possible. This blog has some tips that I have picked up over the years on how to make sure that you are legally protected when dealing with big companies, as well as some tips on how to choose a great business lawyer for your business.