Quick Question: Can you be sued for publishing a snarky press release? Quick Answer: Yes, “press release defamation” is a real thing — but it wouldn’t be an easy win. In addition to proving falsity, you’d have to convince a judge or jury that the defendants:
- Bruised your bank account or caused another professional vicissitude.
- Acted purposefully — or at least negligently — depending on the details of the case.
The Takeaway: Winning a defamation lawsuit is like dieting — it’s tough. Not impossible, but tough. The bottom line is that statutes favor free speech. (Note: A lawsuit may NOT always be necessary; you can combat reputation attacks in other ways. Talk to a lawyer to find out how.)
Ballpark Scenarios: Potential Press Release Defamation Scenarios & The Likelihood Of Lawsuit Success
Scenario #1: The Press Release Includes A Minor Mistake
Your business nemesis, Shifty Jimmy, publishes a press release. It’s not one of his usual self-promotional puff pieces; this time around, ole’ Shifty dragged your business’s name into the fray by saying he controlled 51% of the market, and you only 49%! Hogwash! Everyone knows you represent 50%. “Shifty Jimmy is telling lies!” you protest. “I’m suing him for defamation!”
Under these circumstances, would you win a press release defamation claim?
In all likelihood, nope, you wouldn’t. The difference between 49% and 50% is negligible. To win defamation claims, plaintiffs must prove that their respective defendants’ words caused material harm. Tiny mistakes typically don’t result in significant losses; plus, they’re easily rectified.
Scenario #2: The Press Release Is About A Legal Proceeding
Let’s say you’re locked in a legal battle with another business. After winning a stage in the lawsuit, your PR person publishes a celebratory press release slamming your opponent.
Would said opponent be able to sue you?
Again, it depends. To win, all the standard defamation parameters must be met. Additionally, the defendant would have another litigation arrow in their quiver — privilege.
So, what is legal privilege and why is it special? Basically, privilege can– (CAN, not will) — be an effective “get out of jail free” card. How? Under U.S. law, it’s tough to successfully sue over statements made during a legal proceeding. It’s considered “privileged” information and enjoys enhanced free speech protections.
Scenario #3: The Press Release Includes A Blatant Lie
If adversaries maliciously use press releases to rumormonger, your chances of winning a libel lawsuit skyrocket because the law doesn’t support blatant, negligent, public, harmful lie telling.
Connect With A Defamation Lawyer
Your reputation is as important as your heartbeat. Rumors spread quickly and can cause serious damage. Acting swiftly is ideal. If you have a press release defamation issue — or another defamation issue — get in touch today if you’re ready to reclaim your name.