When you chose to open a business with someone, you likely had hopes that it would be a long-term, mutually-beneficial relationship. But life can throw some surprises at business owners, whether you’re brand new or you’ve been around for decades. When a business breakup happens, ideally you both treat the situation with professionalism, filing it under lessons learned. But in some cases, a bitter ex-partner will feel the need to bad-mouth you and your business to others. When that happens, it’s known as slander and you can do something about it.
Defamation in Business
Slander and libel fall under a general legal category called defamation. If it happens in writing, it’s known as libel, but spoken defamation is called slander. When the words of someone else bring harm to you or your business, you could have a case, but merely having someone saying bad things about you around town isn’t enough. If your ex-partner expresses an opinion of you, such as saying you’re difficult to work with or you don’t care about your clients, it likely won’t be considered defamation. However, if a person states an untruth as though it’s a fact, such as telling others you stole money from clients, you may have a case.
Handling Disputes Amicably
Even if you have a case, taking an ex-partner to court may not be the best option. Often simply contacting the person and saying the talk is getting back to you will be enough to stop it. An attorney can also send a cease and desist letter to ask the other party to stop talking. If you haven’t finalized your split, you can include in your termination contract that neither partner is allowed to defame the other partner, employees of the business, or the business itself.
Taking Legal Action
If a cease and desist request doesn’t do it, it will become necessary to take further action. An attorney can set up mediation to help both parties work out whatever lingering resentments remain. If you must take it to court, an attorney can work with you to make sure you protect yourself and your business throughout litigation.
A nasty business breakup is never pleasant, but a qualified attorney can help you work out next steps. If it isn’t too late, make sure you include terminology to protect you against defamation as you sign any separation contracts. But even if you’ve already finalized the split, there are small steps an attorney can take to ask your ex-partner to stop without going to court. We can help, contact us today.