Defamation is amongst the many pitfalls one can encounter in business. With rapidly changing technology, disinformation spreads fast and can squirrel its way into even the most respected organization. Many business executives are left wondering where to start if they are accused of defamation, and whether the accusations are substancial. For those based in New York especially, protection against this type of litigation is more important than ever. In this article, we provide an in-depth guide to defamation definition and what you can do to protect your business from defamation claims.

Defamation is typically defined as a false statement of fact presented as a form of damage to another person's reputation. This false statement can be made in a malicious manner to harm an individual or organization. It is generally considered to be a tort or civil wrong, as opposed to a criminal offence.

When a person or entity publishes information about another person, the statement must contain the following three elements to qualify as defamation:

1. The statement must be false;

2. The statement must be of and concerning the party who is suing; and

3. The statement must be made with knowledge of its falsity or reckless disregard for the truth.

If all of these elements are present, then the statement would likely be considered defamatory. It is important to note that for a statement to be legally considered as defamatory, it must be considered "defamatory per se”, which is defined as a statement that is in itself inherently offensive and damaging. The following are some examples of statements that may be considered defamatory per se:

1. Statements accusing someone of being involved in criminal activity;

2. Statements accusing someone of an infectious or communicable disease;

3. Statements accusing someone of professional incompetence; or

4. Statements imputing that someone is not a person of good moral character.

However, it is important to bear in mind that these are only some of the potential statements which could be considered defamatory per se. Others may vary depending on the jurisdiction and the surrounding context.

As such, defamation claims can be quite complex and difficult to prove. In New York, claims of defamation must generally be brought within one year from the date of the statement’s publication. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff, who must demonstrate that the statements made were both false and defamatory. If the plaintiff is successful in doing so, then the defendant may be subject to compensatory and punitive damages. It is also important to note that the plaintiff must prove that the statement was made with knowledge that it was false, or with reckless disregard for the truth.

In terms of protecting against defamation claims, there are numerous steps business executives can take. The most effective tool for mitigating potential liability is to ensure that all statements made about, concerning, or to competitors are honest and factually accurate. Additionally, executives should be aware of any informal rhetoric used within the organization, and make sure to adopt a policy of avoiding defamatory statements.

Despite taking the necessary steps to avoid making defamatory statements, it is important to be aware of the legal options should an attempt at defamation occur. Many executives may consider hiring lawyers specialized in business law. This is especially important if they are based in New York, as local regulations may differ significantly from other states or countries.

Fortunately, executives can now turn to an online marketplace such as UpCounsel to find experienced business lawyers who are versed in local regulations. UpCounsel has attorneys that have an average of 14 years of experience, as well as profiles that display ratings and reviews of recent work. Businesses of all sizes—from small businesses to the Fortune 1000—have trusted UpCounsel for high quality, cost-effective legal services.

Whether you require a one-time consultation or an entire freelance legal department, UpCounsel’s expansive network of experienced attorneys can provide a reliable source of legal protection in times of need.


Defamation Definition,

Business Lawyer,

New York