Defamation, Libel and Slander: What You Need To Know As A Business

As a business owner, experts understand it’s essential to be aware of the legal implications of defamation, libel and slander. These “false statements” can damage a person’s or business’s reputation. You could be sued for damages if you’re liable for defamatory statements.

What Is Defamation?

Defamation is a false statement about another person or business intending to harm that person’s or business’s reputation. It can be oral (slander) or written (libel). A statement must be published to a third party to be considered defamation.

For example, if you tell your friend that Joe’s pizzeria has the worst pizza in town, that’s not defamation because you haven’t told anyone else. But if you write a review online saying Joe’s pizzeria has the worst pizza in town, that could be considered defamation because you’ve published your statement to a third party (in this case, the general public).

What are the Different Types of Defamation?

There are two main types of defamation: libel and slander. Libel is written defamation, while slander is oral defamation.


Libel is written defamation. For example, if you write a blog post accusing Joe’s pizzeria of using moldy cheese on their pizzas, that could be considered libel.

Libel can also be published in other ways, such as re-posting a libelous statement from someone else or creating an infographic with false information.


Slander is oral defamation. For example, if you tell your friend that Joe’s pizzeria uses moldy cheese on their pizzas, that would be considered slander.

You can also be sued for slander if you make a defamatory statement on social media, such as Twitter or Facebook. Even if you delete the original post, you could still be liable for damages.

What Are The Consequences Of Defamation?

If you’re found liable for making defamatory statements, you could be sued for damages by the person or business harmed by your statements. The number of injuries will depend on the severity of the harm caused by your statements. For example, if you made defamatory statements that caused Joe’s pizzeria to lose 10% of its customers, Joe might sue you for $10,000 in damages (i.e., 10% of his annual revenue).

Additionally, if your defamatory statements were made with malicious intent (i.e., you knew they were false and made them anyway), Joe might also sue you for punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish defendants who have exhibited particularly egregious behavior and are meant to deter others from engaging in similar conduct in the future. In most cases, punitive damages will far exceed any actual damages suffered by the plaintiff.

When To Contact A Lawyer

If you’re facing a defamation lawsuit or thinking about making defamatory statements about another person or business, you must speak with a lawyer. An experienced defamation lawyer can help you understand your rights and options and can help you avoid making any costly mistakes.

A good lawyer can also tell you whether defamation laws protect your statements. For example, some states have “anti-SLAPP” laws that protect defendants from being sued for defamation if their statements were made in connection with a public issue.

Contacting a lawyer as soon as possible is the best action when dealing with a potential defamation, libel and slander issue.

How To Know If You’ve Been Defamed

If you think you may have been the victim of defamation, there are a few things you can do to find out for sure.

First, you should try to identify all of the statements about you. This includes written opinions (such as blog posts or reviews) and oral statements (such as comments made to third parties).

Once you’ve identified all of the potentially defamatory, libel and slander statements, you’ll need to determine whether those statements are defamatory. To do this, you’ll need to consider the following factors. First, the information must be false.

Second, the statement must be about you. In other words, it can’t be a general statement that isn’t specifically about you (e.g., “All lawyers are dishonest”).

Third, the statement must have been made to a third party. This means that the person who made the statement must have intended for it to be seen or heard by someone other than you.

Fourth, the statement must have caused you some harm. This can be financial harm (such as a lost business), reputational harm (such as damage to your reputation), or emotional harm (such as anxiety or distress).

If you can show that these elements are present, you may have a valid defamation claim.

Final Thoughts on Defamation, Libel and Slander

Knowing the legal implications of defamation, libel and slander is essential for a business owner. These “false statements” can damage a person or business’ reputation. Suppose you’re found liable for making defamatory statements. In that case, you could be sued for damages—and if those statements were made with malicious intent, you could also be ordered to pay punitive damages. So what should you do to protect yourself? The best defense against defamation claims is always to ensure your statements are accurate and based on fact. If you doubt a statement’s truthfulness before making it publicly, err on the side of caution and don’t make the statement at all.

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