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What type of lawyer do I need for a defamation of character lawsuit?

Fallbrook, CA |

I am in customer service and sales - my company hires an outside source to come into my store to pose as potential customers. This person got day and time wrong - stated clear untruths about my walking past her to lock a door in her face and make her wait outside my office without ever saying a word to her. Many more things were negative in this report and can be dis proven by the property video recording. I have a dated and timestamped video that quite clearly shows none of this ever happened. I have been questioned by my company - with due cause - after a report like that. Damage has been done - was hoping to ask for transfer and promotion and this has definitely shown me in quite a negative light.

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Attorney answers 4


In this case an experienced business and tort trial lawyer should help explain your remedies.

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It's likely that your employer has contractually agreed to indemnify the secret shopper company against any such claims. That would be set forth in the typical contract for this industry. If so, you are in an odd position of alleging defamation by your employer's contractor by the act of a wrong statement to your employer. It seems to me you would necessarily need the testimony of your employer to prove up any significant damages (and probably the corpus, too) and for sure you are not going to get that testimony or any other help with this from the employer. For example, under these circumstances your employer will testify that you would not have been considered for the transfer and promotion under any circumstances, even without the secret shopper report. Sorry, but you have to expect that -- the employer is on the hook if your claim is successful, so they aren't going to feed you the statements that you would need to succeed.

This situation is an untenable litigation position and I recommend that you treat the shopping contractor's report as an error rather than a tort, and work with your employer to overcome any concerns it may have caused for the employer about you. Many (most) individual defamation claims are not worth litigating and this is one of them, not only because of the damages issue but because of the capacity of the maker of the allegedly defamatory statement. You should also be aware that writing negative descriptions about your customer service in the secret shopper's report report does not necessarily constitute defamation.

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Defamation, whether libel or slander, are "torts" and can be addressed by any competent personal injury attorney. If the damages (economic/money losses) are not that significant, and you're comfortable limiting yourself to $7,500, you could always try to do it yourself in Small Claims Court. If the damaging report from this "customer" causes issues at work, you may need to seek the assistance of an employment lawyer, but absent some illegal motive, an employer in CA is free to hire and fire "at-will", so that may be a difficult task.

I feel for your situation and wish you the best of luck!

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In Ohio in most private contexts, statements are defamatory if they are untrue and negligently or maliciously made. However, pursuing a lawsuit against a private individual making low wages as a secret shopper may not be worth the trouble. You would also have a difficult time quantifying in money damages how much your reputation is damaged if this did not result in a termination or demotion. Your best bet is probably to rebut the allegations internally in writing with a copy of the security tape and to retain a copy of your rebuttal.

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