Business Defamation Elements: Slander & Libel Claims (Florida Law)

Business defamation

One of the worst things that can happen to a business owner is a damaged reputation. A business’ goodwill is a direct result of its reputation, which is a key component for future growth and success.

Business owners who have had to face business defamation know how costly the fallout can be from decreased customer loyalty to immense financial loss. Our guide will help you understand your rights when it comes to business defamation lawsuits to protect the value of your company’s goodwill.

What Is Business Defamation in Florida?

The term “defamation” refers to any false statement (verbal or written) that causes damage to the reputation or character of a person, group, or company. In Florida, business owners may have a rightful legal claim for a defamatory statement about their business that causes injury to the company’s reputation.

There are two common forms of defamation:

  • Slander: This is a verbal defamatory statement that is untrue and spoken against an individual, group, or organization to a third party and then damages their character or reputation. 
  • Libel: Writing a false and malicious statement about a person, group, or business to tarnish their public image or character is called libel. A company has the right to file a libel lawsuit to compensate for damages and losses to its reputation that come from written sources.

Florida Defamation Statute of Limitations

If your business plans to take legal action against defamation of its reputation, it must do so within the applicable Florida statute of limitations. In Florida, you only have two years to file an action for libel or slander.

Can a Company Sue for Defamation?

Libel and slander against a company can negatively impact the public’s view about that company. You can file a claim for defamation against the defendant (the one responsible for libel or slander) under Florida law. You may send a cease and desist letter as a last resort before civil action.

A successful case for defamation can result in a court’s judgement for damages (i.e., financial compensation”) in addition to injunctive or declaratory relief to prevent further slander or libel.

Claims for Defamation Elements

In tort law, there are four defamation claim elements, and these elements of a defamation claim are the criteria set by Florida defamation law to make an individual, group, or company eligible to take legal action against slander or libel done to damage their reputation or character. We discuss each element in more detail below.

1. An Untrue Statement About the Plaintiff

To take legal action for Florida defamation per se, a plaintiff has to prove that the defendant made a false statement about them. It is important to know that only purported statements of facts can be considered in this case as statements of opinion do not count as libel or slander elements.

For example, if an employer says about his employee called John “your work isn’t satisfactory” that is a statement of opinion and does not qualify you to take defamation action. On the other hand, if that employer states with reckless disregard that John steals from the company, but John did not, then John may have a defamation claim under Florida law.

2. A Written or Spoken Statement to a Third Party

When someone sues for libel, the plaintiff must prove that the untrue statement was written for the consumption of third party readers (think newspaper articles or social media) or communicated verbally to the third party (a colleague, for instance).

3. Defamatory Statement

A defamatory statement is a false accusation made by an individual or entity against a person that not only tarnishes their reputation but causes the third party to form a reduced or negative opinion about them. A plaintiff may be able to file a legal claim against the defendant if they can provide evidence of this sort.

4. Damage to Your Reputation as a Result of the Defamatory Statement

Legal actions for defamation tort elements such as slander and libel can only apply when the plaintiff can prove that the statement’s falsity brought harm to their reputation or character. In the case of a Florida defamation, where a plaintiff suffers damage to their reputation, the plaintiff may not need to prove special damages.

Are Tort of Defamation, Elements of Slander, and Libel the Same?

The tort of defamation is the umbrella term of the civil laws that protect people and companies from spoken (slander) and written (libel) defamation. Elements of slander for a legal course of action include:

  • A verbal defamatory statement,
  • Communicating such a statement to a third party,
  • The defendant knowing the statement is false,
  • The false statement caused damage to the plaintiff’s reputation.

Libel lawsuits protect the plaintiff from written publications that aim to harm his/her public image. While the elements of business defamation claims are relatively the same, small differences exist based on the nature and form of the statement.

Business Defamation Examples

Many companies and public figures often face a lot of false rumors that count as slander and libel. Below, we will take a look at what these experiences look like so you know the next course of action to take if you ever find yourself in such a situation.

Business Slander Claim Example

In 2021, Dominion Voting Systems, an election technology company took legal action for slander against Fox News for ruining its public image by falsely accusing the election technology company of altering vote counts and manipulating its machine to favor Mr. Biden in the election.

Business Libel Claim Example

To give an example of libel against a business, imagine a newspaper publication house falsely accuses a business of cheating on its tax returns, hence damaging its reputation, the company has the right to file libel claims against the newspaper house and receive an award for actual damages and other compensation.

Can you counter sue for defamation?

A countersuit is a lawsuit that a defendant files in response to an initial legal action filed against them. Countersuits are common in cases that involve several different legal issues arising out of the same events or factual circumstances.

A countersuit for defamation is possible in cases where both parties may have made statements that the other alleges are false and harmful to reputation. Our business lawyers can help you evaluate the merits of a countersuit for defamation as a defendant in other business litigation.

Need help with business defamation lawsuits? Speak to an expert Florida defamation lawyer now!

Dealing with business defamation cases is usually a complicated and overwhelming process. If you have been defamed by someone or a company and suffered an injury to your reputation or character as a result, you may have a defamation claim against them under Florida law.

Cueto Law Group is the defamation law firm you can trust to help lift the burden off your shoulders while seeking justice. We are a group of certified and experienced Florida defamation attorneys dedicated to helping you get the compensation and damage awards that you deserve through all phases of business litigation.

Ready to get justice for the defamation done to you? Contact top-rated business lawyers in Miami at (305) 777-0377 today. We’ll schedule a consultation with you to determine if you have a viable claim.

FAQs

What is the Difference Between Trade Libel and Defamation?

Trade libel is a specific type of defamatory statement made to sabotage (with actual malice or not) a business’s product or service, always resulting in financial loss for that business. Defamation is a broader category of harmful false statements that can occur in a variety of business and noncommercial settings.

Can You Sue a Co-worker for Defamation of Character?

Yes! If the statement made about you causes serious damage to your reputation, it becomes a slander or libel case which you can sue for. However, it is important to note that not all incidents allow you a legal claim for defamation in the workplace.

For instance, if a co-worker states a negative opinion about you and this does not damage your reputation or cause you to lose out in any way in the workplace, it won’t count for workplace defamation.

Issues that may allow you to sue your co-worker for defamation of character are facts stated against you by your employer or co-worker that damage your professional image.

For example, if your co-worker or employer declares that you stole from the company, whereas you did not, but this statement causes you to get fired from your job or ruins your chance of being employed in a different company, you will be eligible to make a defamation claim against that co-worker or employer.

Can You Slander a Company?

If you make a verbal defamatory statement that can tarnish a company’s reputation, you can be liable for slander. For a company to make a legal claim for defamation, the statement must be false, must be made to a third party, and must cause financial loss to that business.

Can You Sue a Company for Slander?

You can sue a company for slander if you can prove that the company harmed your reputation or caused other damage with its verbal false statement. Slander cases – unlike libel – are hard to prove without a recording evidence or strong witness testimony. Our defamation attorneys can help evaluate your case.

Cueto Law Group P.L.