business-disparagement-florida

Businesses take a lot of elbow grease to get up and running.

After years of promotion and providing quality work, you might find that you grow so successful that you suddenly are in the cross hairs of some very unsavory people.

Many businesses can go decades without confronting serious legal issues, but many eventually find themselves the targets of attacks on their reputations.

When an individual is lied about and suffers injury, they might have a legal claim for defamation. Businesses that are lied about also have legal rights, and in Florida they can bring a lawsuit for business disparagement.

Also called commercial disparagement, business disparagement cases are complicated and very difficult to bring successfully, requiring detailed evidence of what was said about your business and how it has harmed you. For more information, please contact a business law attorney to begin building your case.

What is Business Disparagement?

You can’t bring a lawsuit for business disparagement simply because you are unhappy about what a competitor or a member of the public has said about you. Instead, you need to prove the following elements:

  • The statement was false.
  • The person making the statement intends for you to suffer financial loss and your business does suffer loss.
  • The person making the statement knew it was false or did not have any concern whether it was true.

For example, a competitor might claim that you hire illegal immigrants as workers, which makes you the focus of negative press stories. Customers might also leave you, costing you money. If the competitor made the claim knowing this would hurt you financially, and if the statement is false, then you might have a legal claim.

Defenses to Business Disparagement

Based on the elements listed above, you can tell when you will not have a commercial disparagement case.

For example, if the statements made about your business are true, you don’t have a case. Only false statements are actionable.

Also, an opinion is probably protected as well. Someone can write on a Yelp review, “I thought the food was terrible” and that is not disparagement because it is an opinion not a statement of fact. By contrast, if someone claims to have found an insect in their food when there wasn’t one, then this is an obvious lie.

Second, your business actually has to suffer financial losses. Many negative things are said about businesses all the time and the public just overlook them.

A negative statement might hurt your feelings as a business owner, but you need to suffer real losses to bring a lawsuit. The person making the statement also had to intend for you to lose or business or have known that the statement would reasonably cause you to lose business.

Third, the person making the statements either must know they were a lie or couldn’t be bothered to check their veracity. This requirement protects someone who tries to confirm the statement before publishing it, such as a journalist who does research to confirm the truth.

Even if the statement is false, the journalist didn’t know it was false or recklessly publish it, so the defendant probably has a defense.

How Much Compensation Can a Business Receive?

If your business has been disparaged, you can bring a lawsuit for compensation. This money should make up for your losses and put you in the position you would have been in had the false statements never been made.

Keep careful record of lost sales or lost business contracts. Typically, you need detailed proof of the amount of money that you have lost, otherwise you will receive only nominal damages. You might also be able to receive money for loss of your reputation. Work with an attorney for help documenting everything.

Has a Competitor Lied about You? Contact a Business Lawyer Today

The marketplace is cutthroat, and competitors sometimes make false statements that they later regret. They can try to get an unfair advantage by outright lying about your business in the hopes of persuading people to not do business with you.

If you have been victimized by commercial disparagement, contact BrewerLong today. Our Florida business lawyers have years of experience in this area of law and know how to bring a successful claim. For a free introductory phone call, please reach out to us at 407-660-2964.

Author Photo

Trevor Brewer

Primarily working with business owners and their families, Trevor advises clients on business structuring and sale transactions, regulatory compliance, third-party contracts, liability protection and general matters facing small business owners. His focus extends beyond legal advice and includes business strategy and wealth preservation. Trevor also works with families regarding their estate planning needs, including probate, trust administration, and wills.

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