Can an honest review of a person’s business dealings become actionable as slander?

UPDATED: Jan 29, 2012

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Can an honest review of a person’s business dealings become actionable as slander?

I bought a cat through a breeder. On the contract she promises a health guarantee up to 5 years. I asked her if shipping causes any health issues and she told me not to worry. This cat arrived sick (we shipped the cat). She has never offered me a refund or to replace the cat. All she has said to me is shipping will cause illnesses. I left her a bad review because of her promising a 5 year health guarantee on all her cats on her contract, which is false. I also said in this review she has lied to me and told me shipping doesn’t cause any health issues, then as soon as the cat arrived she told me it’s because of the shipping. She has threatened to sue me for slander and loss of business. How can she when she breached her contract and lied to me?

Asked on January 29, 2012 under Business Law, Mississippi


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Defamation (slander is a form of defamation) is when someone publically makes an untrue factual statement or assertion about another, which damages the other's reputation.

What you consider an "honest" review can be slander if you made a factual assertion which may not be true.

For example: you wrote in your review that she lied to you. Saying that someone lied is a factual statement. But suppose she did not lie? If she said "not to worry," for example, that is not the same thing as saying "shipping doesn't cause any health issues." To use an analogy, someone could tell you to not worry about playing basketball during a thunderstorm, because lightning hardly ever hits basketball poles; however, that statement, while true, is not the same thing as saying that lighting *can't* hit basketball poles. Similarly, this breeder could have told you to not worry because the chance of shipping making the cat ill is very slight--but that is not the same thing as saying the shippping does not or cannot cause health issues.

So depending on what exactly she said and what you accused her of saying, it is possible that you slandered her by accusing her of a lie when she did not in fact actually lie, since she did not say the precise thing you accused her of.

And yes, you can slander a person who has breached a contract or violated a warranty--their wrong does not allow you to defame them. All that matters is what they actually did or said, and what you accused them of doing or saying.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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