In addition to upholding our clients’ free speech and First Amendment rights, Rathod | Mohamedbhai LLC litigates defamation, trade libel, and anti-SLAPP claims and defenses for plaintiffs and defendants. We strive to defend our clients’ free speech rights when we serve defamation defendants and defend our clients’ reputations when we serve defamation plaintiffs.
Our firm represents individual and business plaintiffs in defamation cases when they have suffered serious economic and reputational harm due to false and disparaging statements others published about them to very large audiences.
We represent individuals or businesses who are defendants in defamation lawsuits if they were sued for allegedly making or publishing defamatory statements that involved public issues. Defendants who are sued for making statements related to public issues may be eligible to use Colorado’s anti-SLAPP law.
Defending Reputations That Took Years or Generations to Build
Defamation of character can be a very serious offense. Professionals whose livelihoods depend on their reputations for good character, integrity, or trustworthiness, can lose their jobs, their careers, or their opportunities to contract with others due to mere allegations of misconduct or bad character. Often, their employers, their business partners, their clients, their patients, licensing agencies, or the administrative agencies that regulate them cannot afford to wait until thorough investigations are completed before taking precautionary and economically harmful actions in response to allegations that are only possibly true.
Our defamation lawyers prosecute and defend defamation of character (libel or slander) cases for private individuals, private businesses, public figures, politicians, and celebrities. In Colorado, the statute of limitations for defamation claims is one year. That means, plaintiffs who suffered severe economic and noneconomic damages due to defamatory statements that were published to large audiences or that cost them their jobs or careers will generally have up to one year to commence legal actions against the people or companies that defamed them.
Using Anti-SLAPP Laws to Defend Defamation Lawsuits
When defamation defendants have been sued for exercising their First Amendment rights to speak about newsworthy public issues, they may be able to file early motions to dismiss under Colorado’s 2019 anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) if they can show their allegedly defamatory statements involved public issues and the plaintiffs who sued them are unlikely to prevail at trial.
In 2019, Colorado enacted its anti-SLAPP law, C.R.S. § 13-20-1101. Its purpose is to prevent frivolous lawsuits involving issues of public interest from stifling defendants’ abilities to exercise their constitutional free speech rights. The law seeks to strike a balance between defendants’ constitutional rights to speak freely to the maximum extent permitted by law and the rights of plaintiffs who claim they suffered compensable injuries arising from those defendants’ statements.
Among the forms of free speech that the law protects is “[a]ny written or oral statement or writing made in a place open to the public or a public forum in connection with an issue of public interest.” C.R.S. § 13-20-1101(2)(a)(III).
Colorado’s anti-SLAPP statute enables defendants to file special motions to dismiss lawsuits arising from any acts of theirs by which they exercised their right of petition or free speech under the United States Constitution or the Colorado constitution in connection with a public issue. The trial court then “consider[s] the pleadings and supporting and opposing affidavits” to determine whether the plaintiff has established that there is a reasonable likelihood that the plaintiff will win their lawsuit.
Defamation per se
When a defamatory publication expressly and falsely alleges that someone has committed a crime, has engaged in unethical conduct in a professional capacity, has a loathsome disease, or has engaged in sexual misconduct, the defamatory publication is considered defamation per se. Our defamation lawyers in Colorado help clients with defamation per se cases involving libelous publications sent via email, posted to social network sites, or written in letters or newspapers. Our defamation of character attorneys can also help clients with slander per se cases involving oral comments made to large public audiences or members of their professional community.
Public Figure or Matter of Public Concern Defamation
When a plaintiff is a public official, public figure, or private individual involved in a matter of public concern, the plaintiff has the burden of proving, with convincing clarity, that the defamatory publication was made with actual malice. If this is the situation, a defamation of character attorney may be needed. Actual malice can be proven when there is evidence the defendant knew that the statement was false or made the statement with reckless disregard of its truth or falsity. The appropriate test for reckless disregard is whether there was enough evidence to help a fact finder conclude that the defendant doubted the truth of the publication.
Trade Libel (aka Injurious Falsehood or Product Disparagement)
Trade libel is also known as product disparagement, injurious falsehood, commercial disparagement, and slander of goods. It occurs when someone intentionally makes false and disparaging statements about a business’s products or services or property. Trade libel claims are subject to a two-year statute of limitations in Colorado. See Full Draw Prods. v. Easton Sports. Inc., 85 F. Supp. 2d 1001 (D. Colo. 2000).
Generally, a trade libel plaintiff must prove a defendant intentionally communicated a false and derogatory statement about the plaintiff’s professional work or a plaintiff’s product or service to a third party, that third party perceived the statement to be about the plaintiff’s product or service, and the statement caused existing or prospective customers or other businesses not to do business with the plaintiff.
Trade libel claims can arise when businesses disparage their competitors’ products or services in comparative advertising. They can also arise when the false and disparaging statements concern the business itself rather that its products or services.
False statements that a business has gone out of business, declared bankruptcy, stolen or embezzled money, or defrauded clients or customers can give rise to trade libel claims. False statements that a business intentionally made or sold unsafe products or that a business’ products contained toxic or unhealthy components or ingredients can also give rise to trade libel claims. For instance, a former employee or business partner can allege trade libel against a former employer or business partner who made false and disparaging statements to prospective employers or clients.
Internet or Social Media Defamation
Defamation posted or published on the Internet can be different from defamation in other mediums. The mode and extent of the Internet-based publications can have serious influences on estimated damages. Though state laws usually govern most defamation actions, when defamatory statements are published online, state, federal, and international laws could apply.
Depending on the facts of the case, choosing where to file a lawsuit could become a time-consuming strategic decision. Usually, the most appropriate place to file an Internet defamation lawsuit is the state to which the plaintiff, defendant, and third parties have the most significant relationship. Another key consideration might be whether the state in which the lawsuit could be filed has a criminal libel statute. Attorneys who handle Internet defamation cases need to be familiar with emerging laws and recent cases in this area as well as Internet communication technologies and ways to effectively investigate and discover evidence shared online.
Contact Our Defamation Law Lawyers In Denver
Call 303-578-4400 or fill out our online form to contact our firm and discuss your case with our experienced education law attorneys.