A business’s reputation is one of its most valuable assets. In fact, when an appraiser is valuing a company, they often give substantial weight to market goodwill. If someone accuses you of jeopardizing how people view their business, the potential consequences, if found guilty, could be extremely costly. However, you can avoid paying heavy fines or even spending time in jail by using appropriate defenses.
If you can show that the plaintiff sanctioned the defamation in business litigation, you could have the case dismissed. For instance, celebrities who give interviews waive their right to sue for defamation even if the publication prints lies as long as the article isn’t malicious.
In some situations, the law recognizes that it’s more important to protect free speech than to prevent defamation. For instance, comments made during judicial proceedings enjoy an “absolute privilege.” This means that even if what was said wasn’t true and damaged someone’s reputation, they can’t sue for defamation as long as the statements were made during the course of legal proceedings.
You can’t be sued for libel or slander if everything you said was accurate, no matter how unflattering it may have been. But, keep in mind that even if something is substantially true, you can still be sued for defamation if you leave out important details that would change the way people view the statement. For example, let’s say you write on Facebook that a local politician is corrupt. Even if everything you said was accurate, you could still be sued for defamation if you left out the fact that the politician was cleared of all charges by a grand jury.
If the defenses mentioned above don’t work, you may use the statute of limitations to have the lawsuit dismissed. In Washington, if someone takes more than two years to bring a defamation suit against you, the courts may no longer allow them to proceed.