Your reputation is important. It’s how people see you in the community and is vital to your success as an individual or as a company. It takes years to build a reputation but only a brief moment to bring it down. If your reputation is wrongfully tarnished by the false statements of another, the law recognizes your absolute right to defend yourself. Whether someone has left a defamatory online review, published a false statement, or has publicly made defamatory statements about you or your company, our lawyers can help make it right.
In Minnesota, the claim of defamation is an umbrella category comprising both slander (oral defamation) and libel (written defamation). A statement is defamatory if it is untrue and disgraces and degrades the defamed person; holds them up to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule. Put another way, a statement or communication is defamatory if it is false and tends to deter third persons from associating or dealing with him or her.
If you think you may be the victim of a defamatory statement and want to know your options, contact our attorneys today for a free consultation. We will take the time to review your case at no charge and help you understand your options. Continue reading to learn more on what is necessary to successfully bring a claim.
THE STATEMENT MUST BE FALSE
A key element in any claim for defamation is showing that the statement is false or not true. Truth is a complete defense to defamation and true statements, no matter how disparaging, are not considered defamatory in Minnesota. An opinion is also not considered defamation. The First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech, protects statements of pure opinion from being considered defamation.
For example, an online review of a doctor stating the doctor is “rude” or a “jerk” is not defamatory. Those are expressions of opinion. But a statement that a person is a criminal or a sex offender, if false, are defamatory. Those are statements of fact that can be proven false.
WHAT IS NECESSARY TO WIN A LAWSUIT FOR DEFAMATION?
Generally, to succeed in a civil lawsuit for a claim of defamation, the injured person needs to show:
(1) the statement was false,
(2) it was communicated to someone other than the injured party,
(3) the statement tends to harm the injured party’s reputation, and
(4) the false statement reasonably refers to the injured party.
An injured person who can show all four can succeed on a claim.
In certain cases, harm is presumed to have occurred from the very nature of the statement itself. That means a person does not need to prove they were actually harmed (#3 above).Those cases include false statements that a defamed person has committed a crime or if the defamatory statement affects their business.
CAN A BUSINESS BRING A CLAIM FOR DEFAMATION?
Yes. Businesses in Minnesota may bring a claim in the same manner as any individual. The only distinction generally is that the company must show that the statement directly tended to affect the credit, property or business of the company itself.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU WIN?
In Minnesota, a person who wins their claim for defamation is generally entitled to money damages. The amount of money is based on a number of factors, including:
(1) The harm to reputation;
(2) Mental distress;
(3) Humiliation or embarrassment suffered; and
(4) Loss of wages or income.
Of course, if the defamation stems from an internet review, an injured party can seek a court order requiring that the defendant remove the review. It is important to remember that each case is unique and circumstances may change depending on the individual facts of your case. That’s why it is always important to speak with an experienced defamation attorney to fully understand your rights.
TAKING THE NEXT STEPS . . .
If your reputation is being harmed because someone posted a false review about your business or is bad-mouthing you in the community, we encourage you to contact our firm. We will gladly take the time to review your case, at no cost to you, to determine your best options. Call us at 952-953-3330 or use our online contact form found here.