Reputation Law Practice
Nothing is more valuable to a business than its reputation. The same is true, of course, for people as well. The success and well-being of individuals, especially those engaged in a profession or in public office, or who are in the public eye, can be significantly harmed by unjust and unfounded attacks on someone's reputation. While the First Amendment protects speech and vigorous debate on issues of public concern, including critical opinion, that protection is not unlimited. The First Amendment does not protect false and defamatory speech causing harm to reputation and other interests.
We represent the victims of defamatory speech in seeking redress for the harm to their reputation by false and defamatory statements online, in print, or spoken, including increasingly common cases of anonymous speech on message board and in other forums.
We also advise and defend writers, journalists, broadcasters, speakers, website operators, and other content creators in minimizing the risk that their speech could cross the line and/or come under legal attack. We also defend legal challenges to speech in litigation and elsewhere.
Sued major online publication on behalf of public relations professional for defamation and copyright infringement in high-profile case relating to repeated false and defamatory articles about her (Gordon v. Mediabistro.com Inc., D.C. Superior Ct.)
Sued consultant on behalf of business, the reputation of which was harmed by false and defamatory statements to major client (Excel Services Corp. v. Walker, U.S. Dist. Ct., D. Md., U.S. Dist. Ct., D. Conn.)
Defended popular radio talk show host in defamation lawsuits by several public officials, including the local district attorney who was running for judge (Olszewski v. Sinclair Broadcast Group, Pa. Ct. Common Pleas, Lucerne Co.)
Defended television station sued for defamation for allegedly accusing a woman of kidnapping her granddaughter (Kenney v. Scripps Howard Broadcasting Co. (U.S. Dist. Ct., E.D. Mo., U.S. Ct. Apps. 8th Cir.)
Defended individual falsely accused of making anonymous false and defamatory comments in online message board
Represented innocent individual falsely depicted in a negative light in a documentary about a convicted killer
Counseled authors, bloggers, broadcasters, and other content creators on minimizing the risk of litigation for defamation, invasion of privacy, and related claims, while still being able to get their point across in effective fashion
Reputation Law Basics
While the First Amendment guarantees free expression in our society, that guarantee is not unlimited, particularly when the speech at issue causes harm to another's reputation, privacy, and/or other interests. Each state provides a legal remedy for individuals and entities that have been harmed by defamatory speech under certain circumstances. "Defamation" is an umbrella terms that includes libel and slander (i.e., written and spoken defamatory statements).
Defamation law contains many complexities, intricacies, and nuances; it is quite different than other areas of tort law. As a result, it is best to work with an attorney with particular experience in this area.
In a nutshell, to succeed on a claim of defamation, the victim of defamatory speech must prove that the defamer made provably false and defamatory statements about the victim to one or more third parties, and that the speech caused injury to the victim's reputation and/or other interests. The defamatory speech has to have been made with a necessary degree of fault--in the case of a private victim, negligently, while in the case of a public figure or official, with knowledge that the speech was false or with reckless disregard of the truth. The claim must be brought in court within the applicable statute of limitations period, which varies by state from one to three years from when the statement was made.
If successful in court, the victim can recover both compensatory damages for the harm caused to reputation, business interests, and personal well-being, such as emotional distress, as well as punitive damages in some circumstances of particularly egregious and/or harmful conduct.