Do I have any rights as a small business owner if I recently discovered that city officials told others I didn’t have liability insurance and it was overheard by one of my customers?

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Do I have any rights as a small business owner if I recently discovered that city officials told others I didn’t have liability insurance and it was overheard by one of my customers?

No damage done now I hope but in a small community the slander becomes god’s word and vicious rumors that will definitely affect my future business. Can I pursue a slander case?

Asked on November 7, 2014 under Personal Injury, North Dakota

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

You most likely cannot pursue a slander case.

First, you can't sue without damages--that is, you can't sue in anticipation that harm to your business may result at some point in the future. The law does not deal with speculative harm.

Second, you don't indicate that the tatemetn was false; if it was true, then no matter how harmful, it's not defamation.

Third, even if false, if the city official was speaking to someone who he had a right to discuss whether or not you had insurance--like a co-worker, a regulator, yourself, any of your employees, etc.--then it's not defamation if someone who was not intended to overhear the remark overheard it.


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