Columbia, MD asked in Libel & Slander for Maryland

Q: What does a business have to prove for a defamation case in an online review?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Joseph D. Allen
Joseph D. Allen
  • Hunt Valley, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: This is the general rule:

Four elements must be present for a plaintiff to establish a prima facie case of

defamation, including that: “(1) . . . the defendant made a defamatory statement to a third

person, (2) . . . the statement was false, (3) . . . the defendant was legally at fault in making

the statement, and (4) . . . the plaintiff suffered harm.” Hosmane v. Seley-Radtke, 227 Md.

App. 11, 20–21 (2016) (citing Offen v. Brenner, 402 Md. 191, 198 (2007)), aff'd, 450 Md.

468 (2016).

One issue that might be difficult to overcome in an online review situation is that statements of opinion can not be proven false. The review must include a provably false statement of fact. If that burden (among others) is overcome, the business also must prove what their damages are. Depending on what was said, and with what level of malice, damages might be presumed.

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