How Much Does a Defamation Lawsuit Cost? Cost to Sue for Defamation Featured Image

How Much Does a Defamation Lawsuit Cost? Cost to Sue for Defamation

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    Have you been defamed on the internet and are considering a defamation lawsuit? Costs are a number one concern among our clients when it comes to pursuing a defamation lawsuit. At Minc Law, we’ve litigated hundreds of defamation lawsuits in over 25 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 defamation lawsuit 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 and restore your reputation. On this legal resource page, we will walk you through how much a defamation lawsuit costs so that you can know what to expect when filing suit.

    In the video below, I will go over 1.) The six key stages of a defamation lawsuit, 2.) Factors unique to defamation cases that affect costs, 3.) How much defamation lawsuits cost, 4.) What an average defamation case looks like, and 5.) If it is worth it to sue for defamation. If you are feeling “sticker shock” from seeing the total costs of a defamation lawsuit in one sum, you are not alone.

    Video: How Much Does a Defamation Lawsuit Cost? Cost to Sue for Defamation

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    Several major factors which may impact the costs of a defamation case or defamation lawyer cost, including:

    • 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 lawsuit costs, factors that influence lawyer expenses, lawyer 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 online libel cases.

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    Contact us for experienced legal help.

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    Factors Unique to Internet Defamation Cases & Their Impact on Costs

    Simply put, the cost of any libel case depends on many variables, so there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Internet defamation cases, in particular, require specialized expertise and legal advice as they include countless unique factors that can influence cost. But, what exactly are the driving factors that influence a defamation suit’s cost?

    Monetary Damages

    The cost of a defamation case will increase if a victim is seeking monetary relief, such as:

    • Payment for lost business,
    • Missed work,
    • Medical bills,
    • Emotional distress, or
    • Punitive damages.

    In libel and slander cases compensation for mental distress or harm to reputation are called general damages (or nominal damages). Damages that don’t qualify as general damages must typically be proven with documents and other evidence that specifically quantifies the harm. These are referred to as special damages or compensatory damages.

    Sometimes, proving special damages (or compensatory damages) isn’t very hard. For example, if an employee loses their job because of workplace defamation and slander by a co-worker, or can point to medical bills from doctor visits to deal with the emotional distress caused by the claim, harm can be easy to prove. However, evidence and witness testimony to prove harm in a defamation suit is not always that easily obtainable for a plaintiff.

    Proving harm in a slander case is even more difficult than in a libel suit too because a slander suit claim is for a false statement that was spoken and no written evidence may exist.

    Libel and slander claims involving a business or business owner are also more difficult to prove. They often require the help of expert witnesses such as accountants or other financial professionals to help quantify losses accurately.

    Additionally, if a Plaintiff is looking to recover attorneys fees as compensation for their claim, this requires getting an award for punitive damages by showing that the Defendant acted with actual malice when they made the statement. Actual malice means that a defendant knowingly made a false statement, or did so with reckless disregard for the truth of the statement that was made. The burden of proof to show actual malice or reckless disregard in defamation law is much higher than other types of damages.

    Cases that seek monetary rewards, as opposed to just injunctive relief, are usually highly contentious and may last longer than other types of defamation or slander cases. This ultimately adds to case expenses at the end of the day if you are a plaintiff.

    Unknown Defendants

    If you already know the identity of the person who published the defamatory statement, you may be able to save some money on your lawsuit. When your attorney has to launch an investigation to identify anonymous posters before a lawsuit has begun against a known individual, attorney’s fees increase to do this investigation. 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 anonymous posters. Occasionally, tech-savvy private investigators need to get involved as well. Naturally, these extra steps (and extra experts) can increase an attorneys’ fees and cost of an internet defamation case.

    Court Orders

    If a court order is necessary to obtain relief (including removal of the false speech) that can extend the time, work, and the cost of your case. Unfortunately, some websites have policies that require legal action and a court order before they will remove false allegations. 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 to remove content 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 and false accusations that are posted about you, the more work and legal fees 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 for your attorney.

    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 legal fees.


    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 20 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 defamatory matter. For people experiencing active and ongoing defamation, they often want quick results to stop the fake posts. This can come at a premium, because your attorney now has 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 attorney work to the legal process and increases costs.

    Attorney Fees for Local Counsel

    Sometimes, a defamation claim requires the help of a local lawyer to pursue litigation in the right jurisdiction. Hiring local counsel is often essential in internet defamation cases where a defendant is located outside the jurisdiction(s) a lawyer 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.

    Contested Cases

    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. There are dozens of defenses available under the First Amendment, so cases can become contested fairly easily. This is especially true if your libel case involves matters of public concern, an absolute or qualified privilege, you are a public figure, or the defendant is a journalist.

    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 for your attorney. 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 Defamation Lawyer Fee Structures & Impact on Case Costs

    Defamation attorney fees vary based on the type of fee structure you agree to with your defamation attorney. There are three primary types of fee structures attorneys work on:

    • Contingency fees,
    • Flat fees, and
    • Retainer fees.

    Contingency 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.

    Flat Fees

    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.

    Minc Law does, however, offer guaranteed removals from countless cheater shaming, homewrecker exposing, and complaints websites for a flat, reasonable fee.

    Retainer Fees

    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).

    Minc Law typically uses a retainer fee structure while handling internet defamation matters. If you are interested in learning more about retainer fee agreements and the key benefits of using them, we recommend checking out our video on the subject below.

    Video: Attorney Retainer Fee Agreement: What Is It and How Does It Work?

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    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.

    Customer Service

    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. We go over the factors that influence the length of a defamation lawsuit in this article, “How Long Does it Take to Sue for Defamation?”.

    Discovery & Evidence

    Likewise, the amount of evidence, documents, interrogatories, witnesses, length of a deposition, and discovery involved in the prosecution of a case can influence costs. More evidence, more interrogatories, more time in a deposition, 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 time frame 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 and to be heard in front of a jury, however, is the much more expensive route. Trial and jury 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 trial costs reach $30,000 to $60,000 because of the work and personnel involved.

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    With a team of experienced attorneys, we will fight for the closure you deserve. Take back control today.

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    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.

    Do you still have lingering questions regarding Minc Law? If so, we compiled our top 6 most frequently asked questions into a video. In this video, we answer our most asked questions so that you can go into your consultation feeling confident in our ability to handle your internet-related issue.

    Video: Top 6 Client Questions We Get at Minc Law

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    “Absolutely phenomenal. Michael took care of every single issue of defamation. I was concerned about wording because of the public nature of all parties involved, but Michael had open communication and approval from me all along the way. I will suggest him to absolutely anyone.”

    KD, June 20, 2022


    If you’d like more personalized advice or a quote, we offer a free, no-obligation, initial defamation consultation with an intake specialist. Contact Minc Law by calling us at (216) 373-7706, or by chat, email, or contact form today. Also, feel free to check out our article, “Top 8 Frequently Asked Questions About Internet Defamation Lawyers” for a closer look at the vital role our attorneys play in removing defamatory content from the internet.


    Are you being defamed online? Contact Minc Law today!

    Our goal is to help you find the right attorney for you. We understand that we might not always be the best fit for every client situation. Our articles, “Top Internet Defamation Lawyers & Law Firms in the United States” and “Top Online Defamation Services“, lists the nation’s top services and firms in the United States.

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