A false statement about your business can have a serious impact on its reputation, morale, and productivity. If someone is making disparaging statements about your company, take immediate action to protect your business.
Consult with a business litigation attorney from The Hunnicutt Law Group.
What Is Defamation of Character in Texas?
Under Texas defamation law, defamation of character is when a person or entity speaks or writes false information about another that causes damage. For businesses, a defamatory statement could result in damage to the company’s reputation and negatively impact its business dealings.
Texas recognizes three forms of defamation: libel, slander, and business disparagement.
Libel is a written form of defamation that includes publications such as social media posts, news and magazine articles, and any type of online print.
Slander is spoken defamation in the form of speech, radio broadcasts, TV airings, and other types of oral communication.
This form of defamation involves one party making false statements about a company with the intent to discourage others from doing business with them.
How Do You Prove Defamation?
To be successful with a defamation claim in Texas, you must prove the following:
- The defendant made a false statement to a third party—either oral or written;
- The statement was defamatory;
- The defendant acted with the requisite intent; and
- The defamatory statement caused damages.
Keep in mind that a negative comment is not the same as a false or disparaging statement.
The defendant must actually communicate the false statement to someone else either in print or through speech. A comment made in private will not suffice.
Defamed the Plaintiff
You must show that the false statement was actually damaging to you or your business’s reputation.
The defendant’s degree of fault that you must prove varies based on your status as either a public or private person. For public figures and officials, you must show that the defendant acted with “actual malice,” meaning they knew the statement was false and communicated it anyway. For private citizens, you only need to show that the defendant acted negligently and published the statement without knowing whether it was true or not.
Under the libel and slander laws in Texas, you need to prove that actual harm resulted from the false statement. However, the statement can be so defamatory that the plaintiff does not need to show actual damages. This is known as defamation per se, where the court presumes a loss of reputation and mental anguish based on the disparaging nature of the comment. Defamation per quod, on the other hand, requires the plaintiff to prove there were actual damages and show the amount of damage sustained.
How Long Do You Have to File a Defamation of Character Claim?
Generally, you have one year to file a defamation claim in Texas. The one-year statute of limitations starts on the date the defamatory statement was made. If you miss the filing deadline, it is unlikely a court will hear your case. This is why it is so important to contact an attorney as soon as possible if you want to file a lawsuit for defamation in Texas.
There are certain instances when you can request an extension to file. For example, if the defendant is absent from Texas for any part of the one-year period, the statute of limitations “clock” suspends for the length of the defendant’s absence. The limitations period may also extend if the person who made the defamatory statement has a legal disability. This can include being under 18 years old or “of unsound mind.” Protect your rights and contact The Hunnicutt Law Group to assist you in filing your defamation claim within the statutory period.
What Damages Are Available for Defamation of Character in Texas?
Defamation is a civil (versus criminal) matter. This means that a successful claim of defamation of character in Texas is not punishable by fines or imprisonment. Instead, most plaintiffs seek financial damages. If a company loses business because of a false statement made by a third party, then that is financial harm. It is also possible to recover the costs and expenses of having to protect your reputation.
Damages for mental and physical ailments based on the defamatory statement may also be available.
Contact Us to Discuss Your Case
With you or your business’s reputation on the line, it is critical to have an experienced law firm fighting for you. Founding attorney, Steve Hunnicutt, has represented businesses and business owners in Dallas and the surrounding Texas areas since 1988. Contact The Hunnicutt Law Group to schedule your in-person consultation or video conference.