Defamation • Libel & Slander
Defamation suits have multiplied with the growth of social media. Comments that were once repeated to only a few people can now reach tens of thousands, and remain visible to friends, relatives, employers and potential customers indefinitely. Malicious online reviews can devastate a small business, and have become a weapon of choice for unscrupulous people prepared to extort free or reduced rate services from honest businesses and professionals. Defamation is serious business.
More than ever, harm inflicted easily can take years of hard work to repair. The law imposes comparatively short deadlines in defamation cases. If you have been slandered, libeled, or accused of either, you need to act quickly to protect your reputation and your rights. Lawsuits must – and thus do – follow fast on the heels of contested remarks. This is one area of the law in which delay is especially dangerous.
The basic outline of a defamation case is simple – someone is defamed when a false statement, published to others, negatively affects her reputation. But the cases themselves can be very complex. Libel and slander is one of the few common-law realms when the First Amendment plays a significant role. What counts as opinion, what counts as the truth, and who bears the burden of proving a host of facts depends on what was said, where, about whom and why.
This is not territory you want to traverse with an inexperienced lawyer. Ray Vasvari has twenty-five years of experience in constitutional litigation. He has litigated dozens of First Amendment cases, and represented authors, bloggers and public officials sued for defamation. He knows how to manage the complexities of a defamation case. If you have been defamed, or accused of defamation, call us. We know how to help.
Have You Been Defamed ?
Has your reputation been attacked ? Have you or your business been unfairly criticized online ? Has your professional competence been questioned ? Have you been accused of a crime or some other wrongful act you never committed ? If you have been defamed, it is important to act quickly. The law provides leverage that may force an apology or a fast retraction. Those demands are best made through counsel.
The time for bringing a defamation case is unusually short. Unlike other sorts of lawsuits, a defamation case in Ohio – other states have different rules – is just one year from the date of first publication. But the time to act is sooner than that. Gathering facts, securing documentary or online evidence, getting statements from witnesses and marshaling facts to defend your reputation get harder with every passing day.
We can advise you as to whether you have a case, and whether that case is worth bringing. That analysis will turn on a host of factors, including the nature of the statement in question, the context in which it was made, the lingering effect it is likely to have, the defenses available to your detractor and the cost of marshaling evidence. Damages are presumed in some libel cases, but proving both economic loss and emotional distress are matters best taken in hand early.
If you think your reputation has been wronged, call us. We can provide detailed advice about your options, through and including filing a lawsuit.
Have You Been Sued for Defamation ?
It can often come as a surprise. An online comment or an honest review, a remark made at a public meeting or a criticism of an adversary, can lead to a demand that your retract your statement, or worse, a lawsuit.
Defamation suits are a legitimate sword in the hands of those truly maligned, but that is often not the way in which they are used. More and more, law firms devote a substantial portion of their practice to “safeguarding” the reputations of powerful corporations. And Americans are simply a litigious bunch. Online forums, where comments can stray beyond their intended recipient or linger for years, provide fertile ground for defamation suits.
Every wrongful defamation case tears at the fabric of a free society. We will never bring a meritless case to intimidate, harass or silence a legitimate critic. Our partners have a quarter century commitment to the First Amendment. We believe in the fullest measure of free expression. We have the experience to defend your right to say what you will, and to minimize the harm if you have stepped over the line.