February 14, 2022

Houston Business Defamation Lawyer | What may constitute slander against my business?

Houston Business Defamation Lawyer

Houston Business Disparagement Lawyer

You have put hard work into establishing a good reputation for your business, whether you own a company that hires workers or if you work for yourself as a contractor or perhaps even an entertainer. So if someone says something against you that you know is false, you might want to take legal action to protect your good name.

However, you might wonder how to tell if someone has slandered your business. According to Chron, whether a person has defamed your business usually depends on whether the individual has engaged in dishonest means to smear your reputation.

An example of legal criticism

You will often find critiques of companies on the internet. If you offer goods or services, online users will probably have something to say about you as well. Sometimes it might be negative.

A common example is if someone had a negative experience with your business and has commented on it on social media or on an online review platform. Since this is the person’s honest assessment of your company, it is highly unlikely that a judge would consider it to be defamation.

When criticism may become defamation

You are more likely to have a legal case if the person criticizing you is lying about experiencing your service or buying your products. A competitor may decide to damage your public image by posing as one of your customers and informing people that you have faulty products or that you conduct business by unethical means. The competitor may post this information or say it to your customers to draw them away from you.

Proving intent to harm

Even if you find that a competitor is lying about you, proving defamation may still be a challenge. It is generally easier to prove defamation if the comments are in written form rather than oral. You will also have to show that the other party intended to cause you harm. It may seem daunting, but defending your good name may be worth it if a judge agrees that someone has defamed your enterprise.

Business Disparagement in Texas

To prove an action for business disparagement under Texas law, the plaintiff must establish five elements: (1) that the defendant published disparaging words, (2) the words were false, (3) the defendant published the words with malice, (4) without privilege, and (5) the plaintiff must prove special damages.

Business disparagement and defamation are similar in that both involve harm from the publication of false information. Waste Mgmt. of Tex., Inc. v. Tex. Disposal Sys. Landfill, Inc., 434 S.W.3d 142, 155 (Tex. 2014). The respective torts, however, serve different interests.

Whereas “defamation actions chiefly serve to protect the personal reputation of an injured party, [] a business disparagement claim protects economic interests.” Forbes Inc. v. Granada Biosciences, Inc., 124 S.W.3d 167, 170 (Tex. 2003). Business disparagement or “injurious falsehood applies to derogatory publications about the plaintiff’s economic or commercial interests.” 3 DAN B. DOBBS, PAUL T. HAYDEN & ELLEN M. BUBLICK, THE LAW OF TORTS § 656, at 615 (2d ed. 2011).

The tort does not seek to redress dignitary harms to the business owner, but rather redresses aspersions cast on the business’s commercial product or activity that diminishes those interests. Hurlbut v. Gulf Atl. Life Ins. Co., 749 S.W.2d 762, 766–67 (Tex. 1987).

A corporation or other business entity that asserts a claim for defamation may assert an additional or alternative claim for business disparagement if it seeks to recover economic damages for injury to the business. Burbage v. Burbage, 447 S.W.3d 249, 261 n.6 (Tex. 2014). Impugning one’s reputation is possible without disparaging its commercial interests and vice versa. Depending on the circumstances, then, a plaintiff may have a claim for defamation, or for business disparagement, or both.

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