Nationwide Consumer Rights - Commercial Defamation and Trade Libel

Consumers who have been the victims of fraudulent or deceptive trade practices have rights under various state consumer protection laws. These laws allow consumers to recover damages for false or misleading statements made by merchants about their products, breaches of warranties that guarantee that a product will be of reasonably good quality, and other deceptive trade practices. Companies may fight back against consumer claims by accusing a consumer of disparaging a business or its product. This could include a lawsuit or counterclaim for commercial defamation or trade libel. While defamation can be a difficult cause of action to prove, a lawsuit can impose a substantial burden on a plaintiff. Our team of Chicago commercial defamation lawyers can advise you of your rights and help you defend your interests against such a claim.

Defamation

Defamation generally refers to a public statement that falsely disparages another person or, in commercial cases, a business, resulting in damage to that person or business. The person making the statement must have “malice,” meaning that the person knows or should know that the statement is false, and either intends the statement to cause harm or knows that harm is likely to result. Spoken defamatory statements are known as “slander,” while written defamatory statements are called “libel.”

A person or business claiming defamation must prove that the statement is false and that the defendant acted with malice. The claimant must also prove measurable damages, and show that they resulted directly from the defamatory statement.

Businesses may bring defamation claims against consumers for statements that allegedly disparage their business or their product. A claim may arise from something a consumer wrote in a review on the internet or otherwise made available to the public. Companies may use alleged defamation as a counterclaim in a lawsuit for consumer fraud or other consumer law violations. Because “truth is a defense to defamation,” however, they may not find it worthwhile to do so.

Commercial Defamation

“Commercial defamation” refers to a defamatory statement made by an individual or business against another business or an owner or officer of a business. A claim for commercial defamation must prove that a person or business made a false statement with actual malice, and that damages resulted from that statement. Damages in a commercial defamation case can be difficult to establish, but may include damage to the company’s reputation, lost business opportunities, and lost sales or other revenues. Defending against a commercial defamation claim often focuses on establishing the truth of the allegedly defamatory statement, or disputing the alleged damages.

Trade Libel

An allegedly defamatory statement against a company’s product, rather than the company itself, is known as “trade libel” or “product disparagement.” A trade libel claim must prove the same elements as a claim for commercial defamation, except that a claimant must show that the allegedly libelous statement caused damage to the product’s reputation, its value or market share, or the company’s revenue related to the product. A consumer can challenge such a claim, in part, by providing evidence of the statement’s truth.

Our Chicago commercial defamation attorneys have represented plaintiffs around the country for decades, assisting them in claims for consumer fraud and other violations of consumer protection statutes. We help consumers assert their legal rights against much larger opponents, including defense against counterclaims for libel or defamation. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with a commercial defamation lawyer in Chicago or beyond, contact Nationwide Consumer Rights today online or at (877) 990-4990.