Most of us have at least a “street-level” understanding of defamation. Individuals that hear or read damaging false statements about themselves or their business typically think: “I need to find a defamation lawyer.” They may be right. But if the defamatory statements at issue intersect with a commercial relationship or transaction, there is another avenue of relief and compensation that should be considered.
There are times when defamatory statements are intended to interfere with an existing business relationship. Take for example the case of investment adviser representative and broker Norm Meyer. He retained a fine lawyer, other than this firm, to go to war with his former broker-dealer1. Norm may have had some issues if he, or his lawyer, restricted their thinking to defamation. First and foremost, defamation claims typically have to be brought within one year. Other causes of action, such as breach of contract and tortious interference have much longer life-spans.
After a very long legal battle, Norm has his BrokerCheck (professional record) amended. The arbitration panel ordered a uniquely thorough Form U-5 expungement and a detailed amendment.
One more observation: defamatory statements, even in the commercial context, frequently get repeated in the media. One example is a business journal. Whether or not the media is liable for repeating the defamatory statements of another depends upon the facts and forum at play. A careful analysis of what was said and in what context is critical in determining whether or not the media should be added as defendants, if litigation is the path you must follow.
Keep an eye on this blog to learn more about defamation, tortious interference, and reputation damage management and compensation.
1 We represented Norm's colleague in the same matter.