California Disparagement, Defamation and Libel Litigation

Claims and Defenses Related to Defamation, Disparagement and Intentional Interference with Business Relations

Business litigation can easily get personal. When feelings run high on contract claims or partnership disputes, defamatory statements can often follow, especially now that the Internet allows for the instantaneous worldwide dissemination of just about anything. If you need advice about the role of disparagement, defamation or libel in California business litigation, contact an experienced trial attorney at Callahan & Blaine in Santa Ana.

Understanding Defamation in a Broader Business Litigation Context

With a 25-year record of success in complex business litigation, Callahan & Blaine's lawyers are known for our attention to detail in the evaluation of claims, defenses and counterclaims for every case we handle. We do not overlook the significance of defamation issues when they arise in the context of business litigation. Although defamation, trade libel and commercial disparagement can stand on their own as tort claims, we more often see them as counterclaims, amended claims or third-party claims in broader business disputes. As discussed below, they are also critical to insurance coverage, whether one is one the plaintiff or defense.

Callahan & Blaine has many innovative and aggressive strategies in defending and defeating defamation claims. For example, we have prevailed on many dispositive motions, such as Anti-SLAAP Motions to Strike, Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings based on the Litigation Privilege, and Motions for Summary Judgment. In addition, our highly skilled, senior trial attorneys are experts at defeating or minimizing the plaintiff's claims in discovery and depositions.

Business defamation usually focuses on disparaging statements about the quality of the products or services that a company offers, although defamation as to honesty, integrity or solvency can occur as well. If the statements are directed to the products or services, it's up the plaintiff to prove the falsity of the statements. This represents a departure from defamation law applicable to individuals, where truth must be pleaded and proved by the defendant.

It's also up to the plaintiff to prove that the defamatory statements caused actual financial loss. We consider not only matters of lost sales or operating profits, but considerations relating to access to credit, standing or rating in trade groups, or other indirect financial consequences of a defamatory statement. Our lawyers' skill with damages issues on claims of all kinds can benefit our client whether presenting or defending business defamation claims.

Insurance Coverage for Disparagement and Defamation Claims

Callahan & Blaine frequently represents corporations and companies who are defendants in complex litigation disputes, including intellectual property claims, unfair competition, trade secret claims and numerous other complex business litigation scenarios. Frequently, these complex business disputes also include allegations of disparagement, defamation, intentional interference with business relations and other reputational torts.

All of these types of claims and allegations of defamation and disparagement — whether standing alone in a singular defamation complaint, or as part of a "shotgun approach" to business litigation — are covered by the defendant's Commercial General Liability insurance policy, or CGL policy. Specifically, these claims are covered pursuant to the CGL policy's "personal injury" provisions. Most importantly, once one of the causes of action of a complaint is potentially covered by an insurance policy, then the duty to defend requires the insurance company to defend the entire complaint.

There are literally scores of complex insurance issues that arise from defamation claims, whether standing alone or as part of a complex business litigation. For example, a cause of action for defamation does not even have to be named in the complaint to trigger insurance coverage. As long as the allegations of defamation or disparagement are made somewhere in the complaint, during discovery or law and motion, or otherwise brought to the attention of the insurance carrier, the duty to defend is triggered. California has the most liberal insurance law in the United States with respect to the duty to defend and to cover defamation claims.

Callahan & Blaine is one of the premier insurance litigation law firms in the United States, and has been on the cutting edge of insurance law, insurance litigation and the representation of policyholder interests for over 25 years. Callahan & Blaine is able to use this insurance expertise to maximize the insurance coverage available to its corporate clients and obtain millions of dollars of insurance benefits, including successfully resolving the underlying business disputes using insurance company money, especially as relates to defamation claims.

To learn more about your legal and practical options for resolving defamation issues in your business dispute, contact Callahan & Blaine in Santa Ana.