A statement that harms a person’s reputation is known as defamation, which includes both slander (spoken) and libel (written) statements. Someone whose reputation has been hurt by a defamatory statement can sue the person who made the statement.
However, rather than engaging in potentially costly litigation right off the bat, an attorney can help you minimize the damage done by sending a cease and desist letter to the offending party. This can resolve issues more quickly but must be done correctly so the offender knows you are serious and puts them on notice that a lawsuit may follow unless, for example, retractions are made and the problem is corrected.
To be effective, the cease and desist letter should include the following:
- The false statements that were made by the offending party.
- Reasons why the statements are false.
- How the statements harmed you or your company.
- A deadline for retraction of the statements.
- Potential consequences for not complying with the demands set forth in the cease and desist letter (e.g., filing a lawsuit).
Oftentimes, a cease and desist letter will suffice. If it does not, you may need to consider filing a lawsuit to protect your reputation or that of your company against further damage and seek compensation for the damages that have already occurred.
In order to prevail in a defamation claim, it must be proven that:
- Someone made a statement. The statement must be written, spoken, or otherwise expressed in some way.
- The statement was published or overhead by others. Defamation law requires that the statement be seen or heard by a third party.
- The statement caused injury. The statement must have caused injury to the subject of the statement.
- The statement was untrue. Only false statements can be considered defamatory; truth is a pure defense. Statements of opinion are not considered defamatory since they are subjective, just as long as the opinion does not contain false statements. For example, an online review that says, “My food did not taste good” is opinion; a review that says, “This restaurant serves spoiled meat” can be defamatory if it is untrue.
- The statement did not fall into a privileged category. Defamation does not apply when a statement is considered to be privileged. An example of this is false testimony in a trial, where the witness is not liable for slander because providing testimony at trial is privileged.
It is important that you have an attorney draft the cease and desist letter to avoid any unintended consequences.
Williams Mestaz, L.L.P., has the experience and reputation that you want when you are dealing with a business-related lawsuit. We are here to obtain the best possible outcome for your situation. Do not hesitate to contact Williams Mestaz, L.L.P., at (602) 256-9400, and see how we can help you resolve your legal matter.