You’ve jumped online and searched “someone defamed my business” because, undoubtedly, you are looking for answers as to what to do next. As a top business defamation attorney in St Petersburg, Florida, Matt Weidner of Weidner Law has a few tips to help you to begin pursuing a case of online defamation against your business.
Someone Defamed My Business Online, What Do I Do Now?
First a Note…
If your business has been defamed online, you may be wondering whether or not it’s worth pursuing in a court of law. The answer to this question is most definitely, YES! Defamation against your business can be harmful to your business reputation far into the future, it will cost you clients, sales, and it may even run your company into the ground…
So, What’s the First Step If My Business is Defamed Online?
The first thing you must do when your business has been defamed online is to make a record of any and all defamation. The best way to do this online is to take a full screenshot of the defamation so that the time and date are also plainly visible on your screen. This will serve as evidence in your case of defamation.
Removal of Content Request
The second step you should take is looking into having the defamatory content taken offline. This may or may not require the assistance of an attorney depending on the content and where it was posted. Again, make sure that you have a saved screenshot of any content before requesting for it to be removed!
It’s important here to note that businesses cannot prevent customers from publishing negative reviews about a business online.
The reason that you should ask for the content to be removed even though you are going to pursue a defamation suit is that the longer that defamation stays published online, the more people are going to see it. Unfortunately, when anything is posted online – particularly if that thing is inflammatory or “juicy” – it’s going to draw attention. This is part of the reason why it’s so important to pursue damages in a defamation suit, but it’s also why it’s imperative that you request the content to be removed ASAP.
Requesting content removal can be a frustrating process, particularly if that content has been posted on interactive social media networks. These networks are protected by 47 U.S.C. § 230, which states that “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider”. So, social media networks have no obligation to take down defamatory content. Blog owners are also protected by law IF the content that they publish is a restatement of something already published by another.
You may find, however, that individual networks, blogs, and public websites have their own terms of service in which they forbid defamation and sharing unlawful content and this may prompt the taking down of content.
Deciding Whether to Go Ahead With Filing a Legal Case For Defamation
If you haven’t already retained a defamation attorney, this is the time when you need to start looking for a reputable business defamation lawyer who can help you to make your case.
At this point, it’s also advisable to meet with your attorney and discuss the options available to you. There may be other avenues through which you can resolve the issue and avoid court altogether. Your attorney will be able to tell you what these avenues are and if they are the best choice for you.
If you do decide to file a case of defamation, you need to know that you must be able to prove that the individual who posted the defamatory comments about your business had an ulterior motive and you must be able to prove that you were harmed by the published commentary. Depending on your case, you may also be required to provide documentation that substantiates any damages that you are seeking. You may not be required to provide evidence proving damages, but it’s always best to have that information on hand.
Filing a Business Defamation Suit
If, after talking to your attorney, you decide that you should pursue a case of defamation, your next step is to file the complaint. Your attorney will file your complaint with the court and the defendant will then be given a short period of time to respond to that complaint. A scheduling order will then be provided by the court which provides you with a list of the deadlines you need to be aware of in your case. Your attorney will also be helpful in reminding you when these deadlines are approaching.
Once the order has been issued, the formal investigation into the case will take place. This is referred to as “discovery”. Questions will be asked of both you and the individual who defamed your business and you may be required to produce physical evidence to support your case.
Once the initial investigations are finished, you may be required to give a deposition. This is a recorded session in which each side are questioned about facts and statements in the case by the opposing side. Depositions help each side to continue collecting facts for their case.
Once depositions are over, the possibility of a settlement will be discussed. At this point in the case, your attorney may already have advised you that a settlement would be in your best interest or the defendant’s attorney may have advised them that a settlement was in their best interest. This often happens when the evidence in a case is too weak, too questionable, or the cost of going to court would just be too prohibitive.
While your attorney can advise you on whether or not to take a settlement, it’s always your choice as to whether you do or not.
If you decide not to settle your case and to pursue it in court, the first step is for the court to establish a court date. From here, you will be required to make your case and the defendant will make their arguments against your claims.
The court hearing can be quite lengthy or they may be quite short depending on the details, but by the end of the hearing, the judge will make a decision in favor of one side or the other. It’s important to talk to your attorney after the verdict in your case has been read to ensure that you fully understand the outcome and what it means for your business.
Someone Defamed My Business Online, I Need an Attorney in St. Petersburg, Florida!
If someone defamed your business and you need legal representation from a defamation attorney in St. Petersburg, Florida, call Weidner Law at 727-954-8752.