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Can I sue a website for defamation/slander?

Houston, TX |

Well there is this website out there where reviewers can leave information about their experience at restaurants, or shops or dentists. I came across a review that is plane untrue, and made up so I would like the website to remove it. I e-mailed the website but they will not remove it they are firm on the statement and plan to leave it up. I would like now to hire an attorney for this matter but will I win?

Attorney Answers 3

  1. Whether y ou will win in cout is a question that no ethical attorney would answer, unequivocally. Whether you haven a viable righteous claim cold be answered but your question leaves out important information. You need to contact an attorney who handles defamation cases and they can advise you on this particular matter. Besides the obvious question of what ws said about your restaurant, there are other issues such as where ims this website owner's place o,f business, how much money are you willing to spend pursuing this matter, etc. contact an attorney and set up a meeting. That is what I would recommend.

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  2. You can subpoena the website for the user's IP address, then subpeona the service provider for the person's identity, and then pursue a defamation claim if you sustained damages. Search Avvo's "find a lawyer" for a lawyer in your state to obtain representation. Our firm does not do defamation cases unfortunately.

    Licensed in PA & NJ. 29% Contingency Fee. Phone: 215-510-6755

  3. I am not admitted in TX (only in CA), so I can only provide a sort of general response. If you're looking at this from the perspective of going after the reviewer for untrue statements, the issue is a possible defamation claim. In general, all defamation actions (slander and libel are types of defamation; slander = verbal, libel = written) require these elements :
    (1) a false and defamatory statement concerning another;
    (2) publication of the statement, without privilege, to a third party;
    (3) fault on the part of the publisher, amounting at least to negligence, in ascertaining whether the statement is true or false; and
    (4) special damages.
    [Restatement 2d, Torts § 558]

    Typically speaking, you must prove that the statement(s) is/are actually false and that the person making the statement(s) knew it/they were false. Such ca be hard to prove, if there is any aspect that is true. Also, statements made that are merely "opinions" are protected. (For example, there's a difference between saying "I think that guy is a crook" and saying "that guy is a felon." In the first instance you may be stating an opinion, where the 2nd example, if false, could be defamatory.) In your case, you'd have to assess whether the statements crossed that "fine line" between a statement of fact and an opinion.

    The 3rd issue to address is damages: it's often hard to show actual damages resulting from the publication. In your case, you'd have to show what damages you suffered as a result of the statements.

    That said, if the statements made about you are false, you may have a civil case against the reviewer, but you'd have to assess what monetary losses you suffered to determine if the case was worth pursuing.

    As for going after the website you probably have little recourse against the web-sites where they are merely "publishers", though the law in this area is still developing.)

    I'd suggest discussing this with local counsel to more fully assess your options. Good luck.

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