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I live in the small rural farming town. I have had an ongoing project building a large pole barn and have had several challenges with the structure’s construction, involving insurance claims on 2 separate occasions within a 6 month period. It has come to my attention this past weekend through mutual friends/neighbors that a member of the town’s planning commission has been badmouthing me, my business boarding stable, he
stated to people I have too many horses, which I legally do not, and my property to other members of the community, very openly from what I have been told by 2 different sources, all about this barn construction issue. He has never once brought any of his concerns directly to myself or my husband and we find this behavior to be abhorrent and a possible reason why I am finding it difficult to get more business. Do we have any legal backing on this and if so, what should our next steps be?I have emailed a few local attorneys on the situation but I am waiting for responses so I thought I would post this here as another way to get an opinion on what to do next, if I can do anything.
Asked on May 9, 2017 under Personal Injury, Minnesota
SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney
Answered 3 years ago | Contributor
Defamation is when someone makes untrue factual allegations about you to other people, which allegations damage your reputation and/or costs you money (e.g. hurts your business).The key is, it must be an *untrue factual* statement: a true factual statement, even if unfortunate for you, for is not defamation, and an opinion (no matter how negative or hurtful) is not defamation, either. Many things that people think are facts are in fact opinions: for example, if he said that you have "too many" horses, but doesn't say something more specifically factually, like "more horses than allowed by law," or "so many horses, they can't take of them and some are sick or malnourished or neglected," that is likely an opinion, since "too many," without referencing some objective legal standard or provable negative consequences, is simply his opinion as to the appropriate number of horses. If his statement(s) are just opinions, they are not actionable defamation.