Want to avoid this experience? “The overarching rule in this area is: don’t say any comments that you know aren’t true,” says James Goodnow, attorney at Lamber-Goodnow Injury Law Team. “Hyperbole, exaggeration, and mischaracterization are the keys to ending up in court.”
That doesn’t mean you can’t discuss real, truthful business distinctions between you and your competitors, he says, but it does mean those discussions have to be anchored in reality. If you falsely characterize a competitor, it’s not only defamation, “but also a civil claim called ‘tortious interference with business relations’ – meaning you have damaged a business relationship.”
Lastly, Goodnow cautions that a lawsuit isn’t always purely business-minded in nature. Emotions have a part to play as well. “If a business feels attacked, that may mean it is more likely to speak with counsel and serve you with a lawsuit.”
As for reputational harm to a client brought on by your professional work, it’s hard to offer tips beyond “don’t make mistakes.” Stay up to date on the standards in your industry, fulfill your services to the best of your ability, and always check your work. Professional Liability Insurance is your friend if a client decides to sue your small business.