Have you been defamed on the internet and are considering suing for defamation? Costs are the number one concern amongst our clients when it comes to pursuing a defamation case. Don’t worry! At Minc Law, we’ve litigated more than 125 cases in 22 states and 3 countries, so we know what contributes to the cost of a defamation case (in any jurisdiction).
It’s important to understand that every case is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer for determining a case’s total costs. But, there is a way to better understand a case’s potential costs and what kind of budget is required to litigate.
Several major factors which may impact the costs of a defamation case include:
- Whether you are seeking monetary relief,
- If a defendant’s identity is known or unknown,
- Whether a court order is necessary to remove the content in question,
- Amount of defamatory content online,
- Whether time is of the essence or not,
- Fees for local counsel,
- Whether the case is contested by the other side, and
- Type of attorney fee structure you agree to.
In this post, you’ll learn how much a defamation case costs, factors that influence case expenses, attorney fee structures, and how much we charge at Minc Law.
Let’s kick things off with a deeper breakdown of the unique factors which drive costs in internet defamation cases.
Factors Unique to Internet Defamation Cases & Their Impact on Costs
Simply put, the cost of any defamation case depends on many variables, so there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Internet defamation cases, in particular, require specialized expertise as they include countless unique factors that can influence cost. But, what exactly are the driving factors that influence a defamation suit’s cost?
The cost of defamation cases will increase if you’re seeking monetary relief, such as:
- Payment for lost business,
- Missed work, or
- Emotional distress.
Financial damages can be difficult to prove, and often require the help of expert witnesses, such as medical professionals and accountants, to help quantify an accurate number(s).
Cases rely on evidence to prove financial losses, which is not always easily obtainable or obtainable at all. Likewise, these cases are usually highly contentious and may last longer than other types of defamation cases. This ultimately adds to case expenses at the end of the day.
If you already know the identity of the person who defamed you, you may be able to save some money on your case. When your attorney has to launch an investigation to find out the identity of an anonymous defendant before a case has begun, costs can add up quickly. Tracking down an unknown defamer is almost like a case-within-a-case because of the legal work required before it even begins.
This may involve serving multiple website owners, hosts, and online entities with subpoenas to learn the identity of an anonymous poster. Occasionally, tech-savvy private investigators need to get involved as well. Naturally, these extra steps (and extra experts) can increase the cost of an internet defamation case.
If a court order is necessary to obtain relief (including content removal) that can extend the time, work, and the cost of your case. Unfortunately, some websites have policies that require a court order before they will remove content. Sometimes court orders are easy to get, while other times they aren’t.
The length of time and amount of work involved in securing a court order can greatly impact the expenses of your case. There is good news though. Court orders aren’t typically required to remove defamatory content from the internet, so this may be one area where you’re able to save on legal costs.
Amount of Defamatory Content
The more defamatory content that’s posted about you, the more work that will be involved in every stage of the removal process. More defamatory content leads to more citations, more evidence, more time preserving evidence, and more people to serve.
Think about it. As of September 2019, the internet contains over 6.08 billion pages. That’s a lot of content to sift through. Defamatory content has a sneaky way of popping up on numerous other websites and platforms than the original site it was posted on. So, if you want defamatory content removed from every site it’s posted on, that’s going to take more time and work, which translates to greater costs.
More “active” cases and emergencies increase costs, as well. For example, an emergency situation may arise where a newly opened restaurant has been flooded with dozens of fake Google reviews. With over 50 percent of new businesses failing during their first year, removing fake reviews immediately is essential for surviving an already volatile market.
When content is still actively being posted, more time and attention is required to preserve the evidence. It also greatly expands the scope of the case. For people experiencing active and ongoing defamation, they often want quick results to stop the fake posts. This can come at a premium, because attorneys now have to work even more expeditiously to secure their removal.
This may require the filing of emergency motions, because the traditional legal process can take a long time. Emergency motions may stop the creation of defamatory content, even temporarily, while the case is pending. As you might imagine, this adds extra pressure and work to the legal process and increases costs.
Fees for Local Counsel
Sometimes, online defamation cases require the help of local attorneys to pursue litigation in the appropriate jurisdiction. Hiring local counsel is often essential in internet defamation cases where a defendant is located outside the jurisdiction(s) an attorney is licensed to practice in.
The costs of local counsel can influence the cost of your case because attorneys don’t always charge the same everywhere. In large cities and jurisdictions like New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., attorneys command exceptionally high prices. But, this could work in your favor if the defamation you’re experiencing happens to occur in a lower-priced jurisdiction.
Finally, one of the biggest variables affecting the price of a defamation case is whether the case is contested or not. A contested case simply means the other side is challenging your legal assertions and claims.
When cases are uncontested or settle quickly, legal representation is much more affordable. However, when the other party is confrontational, refuses to settle, and fights every step of the way, your case will involve more preparation and work. It can also cause a case to drag on much longer than an uncontested case.
The more time and work involved in your case, the pricier your case becomes.
Differences in Attorney Fee Structures & Impact on Case Costs
The costs of a case also vary based on the type of attorney fee structure you agree to. There are three primary types of fee structures attorneys work on:
- Contingency fees,
- Flat fees, and
- Retainer fees.
Many clients have seen commercials where lawyers advertise, “no fee, unless you win!” This is commonly referred to as a “contingency fee” structure, because payment is contingent upon a specific result.
While contingency fees may be popular in some legal fields (like personal injury) this type of fee structure is incredibly rare for online defamation cases.
Contingency fee structures don’t make sense for defamation cases because the remedy sought is usually not financial, and large payouts are few and far between. There are also numerous privileges and defamation defenses that defendants may rely on to skirt liability, making a “guaranteed win” unlikely.
While contingency fees are rare in defamation cases, some cases may offer a “guaranteed removal or your money back.” This option is available if the defamatory content is posted on certain websites.
Like contingency fees, flat fees are not very practical for defamation cases. Because so many variables can influence the cost of a case, it’s impossible to set a pre-established flat fee that accounts for all possibilities. Flat fees may save on costs for those facing the most expensive types of defamation cases, but could also be unfairly high for those with more affordable cases.
For these reasons, we’ve found that retainers and hourly fees are the most practical method of billing.
A retainer fee is an up-front deposit provided before work begins and hourly fees are taken from that retainer on a monthly basis.
You are provided a billing statement so you can still keep track of costs, but don’t have to pay any fees until the retainer is depleted. After that point, you will be billed month-to-month and required to make timely payments.
Otherwise, you might be subject to an evergreen retainer, which includes a rule that your retainer does not drop below a specified amount (e.g., $1,000).
Make sure to read further about the differences between contingency fees, flat fees, and retainers here!
Factors that Influence Cost in All Defamation Cases
Defamation case expenses can also be influenced by some extra factors that apply to almost any legal matter. Below are several factors which not only impact defamation cases, but all other legal cases.
At Minc Law, customer service is important to us, and we strive to be highly responsive. We don’t shy away from clients who want daily personal attention, frequent phone calls, or emails. Even so, extra attention requires more time and that can raise costs.
The good news is, this is one potential cost-saving measure that is almost entirely within your control and depends on your personal preference. You can choose to contact us as much as you want if pricing is less of a concern for you or communicate less frequently if you’d prefer to keep costs at a minimum.
The length of time it takes to resolve a case can vary and has a major influence on cost. Some content removals can be achieved in less than a week, other cases can drag on for years.
Discovery & Evidence
Likewise, the amount of evidence, documents, witnesses, and discovery involved in the prosecution of a case can influence cost. More evidence and more witnesses require more work, which can lead to a higher price tag. Beyond that, expert witnesses are an extra cost that may become necessary in certain situations, particularly when monetary damages are sought.
Court costs, filing fees, transcript fees, and court reports vary based on jurisdiction. Travel expenses to appear in specific jurisdictions also add to the bottom line.
If a case is high-conflict, requiring emergency motions and extra work product, costs add up quickly. When counterclaims and Anti-SLAPP motions are made by defendants, that will typically increase the timeframe for resolution as well as costs.
Appeals that occur after a case is resolved can also lead to additional expenses.
Mediation vs. Trial
Mediation may be a more affordable resolution for some cases, but it is not entirely free. Typically, mediators have to be paid in addition to your legal team.
Taking a case to trial, however, is the much more expensive route. Trial preparation can begin anywhere from 30 to 60 days prior to trial, involve multiple attorneys, and the trials themselves can last for days. Even the visual materials needed at trials (visual evidence and demonstrations) add extra costs.
How Much Do Defamation Cases at Minc Law Cost?
Now that you know all the various factors that can influence the cost of an internet defamation case, we can review the typical costs for an internet defamation case at Minc Law.
We pride ourselves on transparency and understand that the cost of legal representation is at the forefront of a client’s mind. Nevertheless, the price ranges listed below represent averages and are influenced by the myriad factors listed above.
Minc Law Retainer Cost
At Minc Law, we have a retainer agreement for all litigation matters. We generally set a $7,500 retainer, at a minimum. This deposit is then billed on an hourly basis. If a case extends after a retainer is depleted, we continue to bill monthly.
Uncontested Case Costs
Our standard case is usually uncontested and involves 1 to 2 websites. We often have to subpoena websites to identify defendants and then get court orders to remove content. The standard case is resolved for an average total of $15,000. But, this amount is not billed all at once, so monthly costs tend to run from $1,000 to $3,000 per month. Of course, some cases are resolved more affordably, and others get more expensive.
Contested Case Costs
For contested cases, costs fall between $4,000 and 6,000 per month for the length of the case. If your case proceeds all the way to trial, it’s possible to see total costs reach $30,000 to $60,000 because of the work and personnel involved.
We Help Our Clients Cut Costs
If you’re feeling “sticker shock” from seeing the total costs of litigation in one lump sum, you aren’t alone. We understand that cost is a primary concern for most clients. That’s why one of our top goals for every case is to figure out creative ways for clients to cut costs. And when cases get expensive, we offer flexible payment arrangements to ease the burden.
Internet defamation cases are not easy, but if you’ve read this far, chances are you’re troubled by the online defamation you’re experiencing. We’re up-front about our costs because we’re here to help. Together, we can preserve and restore your online reputation.
If you’d like more personalized advice or a quote, we offer a free, no obligation, initial defamation consultation. Contact the internet defamation attorneys of Minc Law by calling us at (216) 373-7706, or by chat, email, or contact form today.
Defamation Law Fact: Look no further than Justine Sacco, a senior director of corporate communications at IAC, who sent out a careless tweet before boarding her plane to Cape Town, South Africa. After landing 11 hours later, Justine was the number one worldwide trend on Twitter, and out of a job.