Protecting Your Business Reputation: Navigating Business Defamation Remedies & Damages Under California Law

As a seasoned business executive, you recognize that one’s reputation is highly valuable. When your business encounters defamatory attacks that damage its reputation, of that of any of its executives, understanding the legal recourse can be vital. We offer expert advice and robust representation tailored to high-stakes defamation cases.

California Civil Code Section 48a sets forth the procedure for pursuing defamation damages arising from libel published in daily or weekly news outlets or slander broadcasted on radio. Correction should be demanded immediately.

Immediate Correction Demand Re: Defamatory Statements

Taking swift and decisive action is crucial. Within 20 days of becoming aware of the defamatory publication, a written notice specifying the libelous statements and demanding their rectification should be served to the publisher or broadcaster. This timeline accounts for the period it may take for the contentious content to circulate. “The notice and demand must be served within 20 days after knowledge of the publication or broadcast of the statements claimed to be libelous.” Civ. C. 48a(a). Under California Civil Code Section 48a, “[i]n any action for damages for the publication of a libel in a daily or weekly news publication, or of a slander by radio broadcast, plaintiff shall only recover special damages unless a correction is demanded and is not published or broadcast, as provided in this section.” Plaintiff is required to serve upon the publisher at the place of publication, or broadcaster at the place of broadcast, a written notice 1) specifying the statements claimed to be libelous and 2) demanding that those statements be corrected. Section 48a recognizes that it takes time for the publication’s contents to disseminate. Section 48a states, “The notice and demand must be served within 20 days after knowledge of the publication or broadcast of the statements claimed to be libelous.” Civ. C. 48a(a).

Reposting or Republication May Constitute Additional Defamation

Sometimes posts are re-published or re-posted; this can implicate other parties for re-publication which can also involve additional parties in a defamation action, particularly where those statements are made with recklessness as to the truth or falsity of the defamatory statement.

What The Offending Party/ies Are Obligated To Do: Timely Correct and Match Prominence

Each offending party is then obliged to issue a correction as conspicuous as the original defamatory statements in their subsequent publication or broadcast within three weeks of receiving the notice. If the erroneous assertions remain uncorrected, your business has the right to file a lawsuit for general, special, and exemplary damages.

Correction is to be made in substantially as conspicuous a manner in the same daily or weekly publication or broadcast as the statements claimed to be libelous in a regular issue published or broadcast within three weeks after service of the demand. An aggrieved plaintiff can file a complaint setting forth notice, demand and failure to correct, and if his or her cause of action is maintained, that plaintiff may recover general, special, and exemplary damages. If a correction is made in substantially as conspicuous a manner in the daily or weekly news publication or broadcast as the statements claimed in the complaint to be libelous before receiving the demand for correction, that correction will moot the need for subsequent correction.

What are General, Special, and Exemplary Damages for Defamation?

In legal parlance, “general damages” covers loss of reputation, shame, mortification, and hurt feelings. “Special damages” means all damages that plaintiff alleges and proves that he or she has suffered in respect to his or her property, business, trade, profession, or occupation, including the amounts of money the plaintiff alleges and proves he or she has expended as a result of the alleged libel. “Exemplary damages,” or punitive damages, serve as an additional penalty aimed at deterring the defendant and others from such behavior. This is to punish a defendant who has made the publication or broadcast with actual malice. “Actual malice” refers to a state of mind arising from hatred or ill will toward the plaintiff.

If Corrected With Matching Prominence, No Subsequent Correction Is Needed

A noteworthy aspect of Section 48a is that if a correction matching the prominence of the original defamatory statements is published or broadcast before receiving a demand for rectification, it negates the need for subsequent correction.

What Media Is Covered By “Publication”?

The term ‘daily or weekly news publication’ includes print and digital media outlets that report on public interest matters and publish at least weekly.

Long & Associates recognizes the weight of your business reputation and is committed to guiding you through these legal intricacies. Protect your business against damaging defamation — contact us for a specialized consultation today.

Attorney Michael A. Long is experienced as replacement counsel. He has represented attorneys, executives, business owners, producers, tech companies, engineers, inventors, employees, employers, and established multinational clients with worldwide IP portfolios.

Michael A. Long, Long & Associates