Trade libel is essentially the defamation of a business. It is a business tort and is defined as the publication of a false statement of fact that is an intentional disparagement of the quality of the services or products of the plaintiff’s business and that results in pecuniary damages to the plaintiff. It allows the injured business to seek both compensatory damages and punitive damages.
The difference between trade libel and just general business competition statements is that trade libel involves making knowingly false statements about the business—with the intent of damaging the business.
The elements of trade libel are as follows:
- Defendant’s false statement;
- Similar to defamation, truth is an absolute defense to trade libel.
- Publication does not necessarily mean actually “published” in a written document or website blog. It simply means the statement must have been communicated to a third party. The communication can be oral (slander) or written (libel).
- Of matter disparaging the quality of another person’s property or services;
- which the publisher intended to cause harm to the owner, or should have recognized as being likely to cause it; and
- defendant must have made the communications knowing they were false or with reckless disregard of the truth.
- Causation of pecuniary harm or loss.
- The business must have actually suffered a loss of business or have suffered a tangible damage to its reputation such that such damage would lead to future lost business.
There are many defenses to trade libel, the most common being that the statement was not untruthful. Additionally, defendants often use the argument that the statement was ambiguous and vague, thus not disparaging.
Trade libel and other business torts are a regular part of Beverly Hills Law Corp., PC’s practice. We handle all types of business matters and business disputes–including trade libel. These can be complicated and require a thorough analysis of the facts using the elements above. Contact us today for a free consultation. We represent small business owners in all types of business torts and business disputes, in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and Orange County, as well as the rest of California.