Can I sue someone who continues to bad mouth my business with different online user name/accounts?

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Can I sue someone who continues to bad mouth my business with different online user name/accounts?

Asked on September 5, 2014 under Business Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If what they are doing is defamation, then yes, legally you may sue them--though it can be difficult to prove if they keep using different user names.

Defamation is making an untrue statement of fact which damages your business's reputation. True statements, no matter how harmful, are not defamation; and opinions, no matter how negative, are also not defamation.

So, for example, say that you are a contractor who is required to be licensed by your state--and that you are licensed. Say that you installed a bathroom for a homeowner and, one month after finishing the work, it sprang a large leak, causing extensive damage.

1) Saying that "We used John Doe's Plumbing and our new bathroom sprang a huge leak after one month" is not defamation--it's true.

2)  Saying "Don't use John Doe's Plumbing--it's the worst plumber we ever used" is not defamation, either--it's an opinion.

3) But saying that "John Doe's Plumbing is not licensed" would be defamation--you are licensed, so the assertion is untrue as well as damaging.

4) Or saying "John Doe's Plumbers are drug addicts" would be defamation if your plumbers are not drug addicts--again, it would be a factually untrue and damaging assertion.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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