If you are a business owner in Texas, there’s a chance you may have faced a business disparagement claim or very well may face one in the future.
But what is business disparagement in Texas, and how does it differ from a defamation claim?
If an individual or entity has disparaged your business, you may have a claim for relief.
Adam Curley is an experienced business law attorney in Texas who is ready to help you get the answers you need.
Contact The Curley Law Firm to discuss your case and get started on your Texas business disparagement lawsuit today.
Elements of a Business Disparagement Lawsuit
In Hurlbut v. Gulf Atlantic Life Ins. Co., the Texas Supreme Court noted that the general elements of a business disparagement claim in Texas are:
- Publication of disparaging words,
- Lack of privilege, and
- Special damages.
To prevail on a business disparagement claim, you must be able to prove all five elements. Thus, it is important to understand what each element means.
Publication of Disparaging Words
First, the disparaging words must be published. This means that if, for example, the words were said only in a private conversation, you will likely not have a claim.
Additionally, the statement must be disparaging. Essentially, the words must be harmful or damaging to the business’s economic interests.
The disparaging statement must also be false. It is important to note that the truth is always a defense to a business disparagement claim. Thus, if the statement is true, even if it may be harmful to your business’s reputation, you cannot recover through a business disparagement claim.
The defendant in a business disparagement lawsuit must have acted with “malice.” This means that they acted with ill will or were aware that they were making a false statement at the time.
Lack of Privilege
In a Texas business disparagement lawsuit, a plaintiff will not have an actionable claim if the defendant made the statement under some sort of legal privilege.
Examples of privileges that may preclude liability in a business disparagement lawsuit include statements made:
- Under oath in a judicial proceeding;
- By members of state or federal legislatures during debates; and
- By the media that may be in the public’s interest to hear.
If you have questions about whether a legal privilege may exist in your case, The Curley Law firm can help.
Lastly, in a business disparagement lawsuit, you must be able to prove “special damages.” In other words, you must be able to show a quantifiable economic loss caused by the defendant’s harmful and disparaging statements. It is not enough to allege that your business’s reputation suffered.
At The Curley Law Firm, we can help you gather the information you need to allege and prove special damages in your business disparagement case.
What’s the Difference Between Defamation and Business Disparagement in Texas?
Both defamation and business disparagement are claims in Texas that protect important interests. However, they are separate and distinct legal claims.
Thus, it is important to know precisely what interests each one protects.
When someone makes false or misleading statements that damage an individual’s reputation, that individual may have a legal cause of action. This cause of action is generally referred to as a defamation claim.
It is important to note that businesses that suffer damage as a result of a false statement may have a cause of action as well. However, the subject of the harm is different.
Whereas in a defamation claim it is an individual’s reputation that is harmed, in a business disparagement claim, the false statement harms the business entity, rather than any individual person.
Specifically, the Texas Supreme Court noted in Forbes Inc. v. Granada Biosciences, Inc. that, “The two torts differ in that defamation actions chiefly serve to protect the personal reputation of an injured party, while a business disparagement claim protects economic interests.”
This is the key difference between a defamation claim and a business disparagement claim in Texas.
I’m a Business Owner—Should I Bring a Defamation or Business Disparagement Lawsuit?
The short answer is, It depends.
If the damaging statement was made about the business, then you may consider bringing a business disparagement claim. However, you likely won’t be able to bring a defamation claim.
If the disparaging statement was made about you in your personal capacity as the business’s owner, then it’s possible that you could bring both types of claims. A defamation lawsuit could defend your personal reputation, while a business disparagement claim could help you recover any economic losses to your business that resulted from the statement.
The Curley Law Firm can help you determine whether you have an actionable claim and how to handle the process moving forward.
Contact a Business Disparagement Lawsuit Attorney Today
If your business has suffered due to the disparaging comments or statements of another, contact a business law attorney today.
Business disparagement in Texas is a complicated legal claim to navigate, but you don’t have to handle it alone.
Adam Curley of The Curley Law Firm is an experienced business litigation attorney. He has dedicated his practice to assisting business clients with their legal disputes so that they can focus on what matters most—their businesses.
In his 10 years of practice, Adam Curley has helped countless business clients through their legal disputes, and he is prepared to help you too. Contact The Curley Law Firm today to discuss your case and see what we can do for you.