If you are located in Ohio and the target of defamation, you are probably feeling a lot of things – like anger, frustration, and possibly even confusion. Defamation of character lawyers in Ohio know all too well the emotional toll that lies, fake reviews, and other defamatory content can have on an individual or business.
In addition to the frustration that accompanies defamation, it can be overwhelming to find a lawyer to advise you of your legal options. We have taken the time to compile a list of the top defamation lawyers in Ohio for you – so you can focus on getting the legal help you need.
Five of the top defamation lawyers and law firms in Ohio include:
- Aaron Minc and Minc Law;
- The Chandra Law Firm;
- Melissa D. Bertke of Baker Hostetler;
- Thomas G. Haren of Frantz Ward;
- John C. Grenier of Graydon Law.
At Minc Law, it is our mission to provide transparent and trustworthy services. While we can help most victims of online defamation, we understand that we are not always a perfect match for everyone. Even if we are not the right fit, we want you to find appropriate help for your defamation issue. That is why we have researched other defamation lawyers in Ohio that may be able to help you even if we cannot.
In this article, we will look at Ohio defamation laws, Ohio defamation of character attorneys, and how to find an experienced internet defamation lawyer in Ohio. We will also explain how to find reviews for Ohio law firms and how to file a lawsuit for defamation of character.
Ohio Laws Governing Defamation of Character
We are defamation lawyers based in Ohio. Even though experienced defamation lawyers can help people in virtually any state, it is useful for us to look at Ohio laws, specifically.
Defamation of character, also commonly referred to as ‘defamation’, is a comprehensive legal term of art for publishing lies that hurt another person’s reputation. In layman’s terms, defamation is a false statement made to a third party that causes damages to another person or their reputation.
There are two categories of defamatory statements:
- Libel – a false written statement to a third party that causes damage to the subject of the statement.
- Slander – a false statement that was spoken or orally communicated to a third party that causes damage to the subject of the statement.
Under Ohio defamation law, defamation is known as defamation of character and is defined as a “false statement that causes injury to a person’s reputation, exposes him to public hatred, contempt, ridicule, shame, or disgrace or affects him adversely in his trade or business.”
There are five elements of defamation that you need to prove to win a defamation lawsuit. Ohio requires that you prove:
- That a false statement was made;
- About the plaintiff;
- To a third party, without legal privilege;
- With at least negligence on the part of the Defendant (meaning they were careless and did not take reasonable steps to ensure what they were saying was true);
- That was either: defamatory per se (libel per se or slander per se) or caused special harm to the plaintiff.
As with other jurisdictions, there is a statute of limitation for defamation claims in Ohio. Plaintiffs are required to bring an action for libel or slander “within one year after the cause of action accrued.” In general, the statute of limitations begins when a person first makes the defamatory statement.
If, for example, a former employee publishes a defamatory statement about your business on February 17, 2021, you will need to file a defamation lawsuit before February 17, 2022, to comply with Ohio’s statute of limitations.
How Do You Sue for Defamation of Character in Ohio & Win?
In Ohio, individuals, businesses, and groups who have had their reputations damaged from a harmful or false statement can file a civil action for defamation.
To sue for defamation of character in Ohio and win, we recommend taking the following steps when filing your defamation lawsuit:
- Step One: Assess whether you have a valid claim for libel or slander. Do you believe you could prove each of the five elements for defamation of character?
- Step Two: Consider what defenses you may face to your lawsuit and how you may be able to overcome them. Common defamation defenses include opinion, truth, privilege, statute of limitations, and consent.
- Step Three: Decide on the best court to file your lawsuit. You may have an option between jurisdictions if you and your defamer live in different states. There may be strategic reasons for choosing one jurisdiction over another, including more favorable defamation laws or longer statutes of limitation, among other things.
- Step Four: Draft your legal complaint. You will want to ensure your complaint is drafted to maximize your chances of winning. A solid defamation complaint should identify the parties and jurisdiction, describe the facts leading to the allegation, and your legal claims for relief. Finally, you will list the relief you are requesting (like defamation damages) or a request for a jury trial.
- Step Five: Comply with all pre-suit filing requirements, including notifying the defendant that a lawsuit will be filed unless they retract their defamatory statement.
- Step Six: Serve your lawsuit on the defendant after filing it. Service of process is a requirement in any type of lawsuit – it notifies the other party that a lawsuit has been filed against them and that they must respond to the allegations in the complaint.
Filing and litigating a defamation of character lawsuit can be a daunting task and should not be taken lightly. We suggest hiring an experienced defamation attorney to help you assess and file your case.
Can I Sue a Defendant Located Outside of Ohio?
Yes, you can sue a defendant located outside the state of Ohio. Generally speaking, you can file a lawsuit in the state where you live or where your business operates, as well as the state where the defendant lives.
In certain cases, you can even file a lawsuit in a jurisdiction where your customers live or where you have experienced losses or damages. For instance, if you live and operate a business in Ohio, but the majority of your customers are in Pennsylvania, and defamation causes you to lose many of your Pennsylvania customers – you could potentially file a defamation lawsuit in Pennsylvania.
Choosing where to file your defamation claim is a strategic matter that could increase (or hurt) your chances of winning your case.
What Are the Costs Involved When Suing For Defamation of Character?
Lawsuits are very expensive, especially compared to non-legal litigation alternatives. The cost of a defamation lawsuit varies depending on a variety of factors. Those factors include:
- Whether you are seeking monetary relief,
- If a defendant’s identity is known or unknown,
- Whether a court order to remove content is necessary,
- The 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
- The type of attorney fee structure you agree to.
At Minc Law, the starting cost of a defamation lawsuit can be as low as $5,000–$7,500. But, on average, most total case costs fall between $14,000 and $16,000.
Contested cases can cost an average of $4,000–$6,000 per month, with total costs in the range of $30,000–$60,000 for a trial (if the case proceeds all the way to trial).
Most attorneys will require a retainer fee up-front to initiate the lawsuit and cover future services. Retainers can range anywhere from a couple of thousands of dollars to $10,000–$20,000 depending on the circumstances surrounding your matter and where you are filing your case. At Minc Law, we typically require a $7,500 retainer for litigation matters.
If these numbers are giving you sticker shock, there are ways to finance your legal fees, such as attorney-provided financing, obtaining a loan, using credit cards, crowdfunding, and loans from family and friends.
When to Seek Legal Help For a Defamation of Character Lawsuit
Defamation can occur in many forms. Some defamation examples include: lies shared in face-to-face conversations, on phone calls, through text messages, in books, on social media, podcasts, blogs, shaming websites, online review sites, cheater websites, and gossip forums.
Below, we elaborate on a few of these examples to better illustrate situations in which defamation occurs.
Example 1: Face to Face Defamation
You own a business and are conducting interviews for a new assistant. When you reach out to a candidate with a job offer, they reject your offer and explain that one of your current employees pulled them aside after the interview and told them how horrible you are as an employer.
It turns out, your disgruntled employee lied to several candidates you were interviewing – saying that you do not pay for overtime, sleep with employees, and verbally abuse workers. You may have a defamation of character claim.
Example 2: Social Media Defamation
You own a thriving dental practice. One day an employee tells you that you should check out the chatter on your office’s Facebook page. When you get online you see that a former patient has made a series of comments on your office’s page stating that you overcharge your clients, perform unnecessary procedures, and do not properly clean your dental instruments.
You are familiar with the patient because you recently had to refer their account to a collection agency. Before now, you have never heard a complaint from them about any procedures you performed or any of your billing practices. You are not even sure where they got the idea that you do not clean your tools (because you always do).
Shortly after the comments appear on your Facebook page, other patients start canceling their appointments stating that they do not want to see a dentist with such a poor reputation. You likely have a defamation of character claim against the former patient who made the false comments.
5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Assessing Defamation
If you believe you have been defamed but are wondering if you should seek legal help for a defamation of character lawsuit, we suggest that you ask yourself these 5 questions to determine if you should proceed:
- Was the statement substantially untrue?
- Do you know who made the false statement? If not, do you have the means to identify them?
- Did this person knowingly or recklessly make this false statement (either they acted with actual malice and knew what they were saying was a lie or they did not bother to find out if their statement was untrue)?
- Was the statement published (verbally or in writing) to someone other than you?
- Has this false statement harmed you or your business in some way?
If you can answer these questions, or are unsure if you have a valid defamation claim, then you should speak to an experienced defamation attorney to explore your legal options.
How Will Hiring a Lawyer Help You Decide Whether to Sue For Defamation of Character?
Defamation lawsuits can be challenging and involve complex legal issues. Speaking with an attorney during a free consultation or after you have hired one, will help you decide whether or not you have a claim to file a defamation suit.
It is important to be 100% honest with your attorney even if the information is embarrassing so they can tell you whether or not you have a basis to file a defamation of character lawsuit.
Here we outline a couple of scenarios of actionable defamation claims. Please note that the following stories are fictional and are not real clients or cases of our firm.
Examples of Actionable Defamation Claims in Ohio
Former Employer Lies to Human Resources
Sarah Smiley applies for a new job at an accounting firm. When the human resources department of the accounting firm checks Sarah’s references, her previous employer tells them she was fired because she falsified her time cards.
Sarah says these statements are untrue. She never falsified her time cards. However, as a result of this conversation with her previous employer, the accounting firm does not give Sarah the job.
This is considered slander. Sarah’s previous employer made a false statement to her prospective employer. The harm she suffered was not getting the job.
Doctor Targeted With Fake Reviews
Dr. Peter Parker is a pediatrician in Columbus, Ohio. Dr. Parker recently discovered multiple one star reviews and fake Google reviews on his Google business page. The reviewers’ names and situations do not match any of his patients. He believes his business is being attacked and defamed by an anonymous person.
These false and defamatory reviews are causing Dr. Parker’s Google overall 5-star rating to drop to a 3-star rating, which is decreasing his online traffic, and eventually a loss of business. The harm in this situation is the loss of business and profits.
And here are 2 examples of a non-actionable defamation claim.
Examples of Non-Actionable Defamation Claims in Ohio
Rude Sister Complains About a Dress
After a family wedding, Mary Moore receives a text message from her sister that says she thought her dress was inappropriate and ugly. While this text message may be rude and insulting, it does not qualify as defamation. This type of dispute is better handled by a private conversation between Mary and her sister.
Customer Has “Salty” Opinions About Local Restaurant
The Happy Time restaurant in Toledo, Ohio received a 1-star review from a customer on their Yelp page. The customer said the “food was too salty” and the “server was rude”. The Happy Time restaurant wants to sue this customer for defamation. However, because pure opinions are not actionable as defamation claims, The Happy Time restaurant is not able to file a defamation suit. In a situation like this, the restaurant may want to consider reaching out to their customer to see how they can remedy the situation.
Google Removal Tip: Google is the most popular search engine in the world, so it can be especially damaging to your online reputation if defamatory content appears in your search results. To remove defamatory content from Google you can use online reputation management to suppress unwanted content or flag content that violates Google’s Terms of Service. If all else fails, you can also file a defamation lawsuit and obtain a court order to get the unwanted content removed.
What Should You Expect When Filing a Civil Lawsuit For Defamation?
You may be surprised to hear this, but lawsuits do not exactly mirror what you see on popular legal TV dramas. Defamation lawsuits can be time-consuming, costly, and stressful. It helps to know what you are in for before you decide to move forward with a lawsuit.
Here are a few things you should expect when filing a defamation lawsuit:
- Be prepared to disclose everything with your attorney, even the embarrassing things.
- If you are trying to recover financial loss, you will need to share supporting financial documents to prove your losses;
- Litigation matters can move slow, do not expect a quick result. Patience is a necessary part of any lawsuit;
- You may be deposed during the course of discovery (other parties may be subpoenaed for depositions as well including your employer, doctors, friends, family, etc.);
- Be prepared for costs to (potentially) add up;
- Results are not guaranteed. An attorney cannot guarantee success in any lawsuit including defamation of character suits.
How to Find a Lawyer in Ohio For Legal Advice on Defamation of Character
Finding attorneys to help you deal with a legal situation is not always easy. If you have decided to pursue a defamation of character claim, you may be wondering how you can find a qualified attorney to help you.
It may be obvious, but it is important to note that you will need to find an attorney who handles defamation cases. You would not want to hire a family law attorney for a defamation case, just as you would not see a dermatologist for a heart problem.
Fortunately, there are a host of resources available to help you decide on the right defamation lawyer for you. The best place to find the right legal professional are:
- Online databases like Avvo, Martindale-Hubbell, and Lawyers.com;
- Your local attorney bar association;
- Your local legal aid society;
- Referrals from family, friends, co-workers, etc.
Choosing an attorney is an important decision. Once you have located an attorney that you are interested in hiring, it is important to do your research to make sure you have the right attorney for the job. Below are some basic questions you should ask before retaining an attorney.
Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Attorney:
- Do you provide a free consultation? If not, what is the cost for one?
- How long have you been practicing law?
- How much experience do you have with these types of matters? What is your track record of success?
- Have you ever been the subject of a disciplinary action?
- What are your fees and how are they structured?
- What additional costs may be involved (filing fees, postage, copy fees, etc.)?
- How often will I be billed?
- How will you inform me of developments in my case?
Do not forget to download our resource checklist ‘33 Questions to Ask When Hiring an Internet Defamation Lawyer’.
Can an Ohio Defamation Attorney Help Me If I Am Not Located in Ohio?
Possibly. An Ohio defamation attorney may be able to assist even if you are not located in Ohio. Depending on your situation, attorneys can generally provide services in another state that do not require them to appear in court (such as arbitration, mediation, and advising as a consultant). An out of state attorney can also represent clients in other states when they work on a pro hac vice admission.
At Minc Law, we are international defamation attorneys that happened to be based in Ohio. We have litigated more than 350 cases in 26 states and 5 countries. We are well-versed in online defamation laws, plus we have built working relationships with local counsel in a number of states. By working with local counsel and requesting pro hac vice (temporary) admission to other courts, we can assist clients virtually anywhere.
For more information, make sure to check out our comprehensive post answering the question: ‘Can a lawyer from another state represent you?’
Where Can You Find Reviews of Ohio Law Firms?
Recent studies have shown that 90% of consumers read at least one online review before deciding to patronize a business. If you are wondering where you can read reviews of Ohio law firms, we have compiled a list of resources to help you find reviews and testimonials for Ohio attorneys and firms.
Here are some sites where you can find reviews of Ohio attorneys:
Top Ohio Defamation Lawyers & Law Firms Who Can Help With Your Defamation of Character Lawsuit
|#5. John C. Grenier (Graydon)
- Offices in Cincinnati, Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana
- Experienced civil litigator with focus areas of communications and media law
- Recently obtained a summary judgment on behalf of an author of a novel in a “libel in fiction” case
- Holds many awards including an AV Rating (the highest rating given to lawyers by Martindale-Hubbell)
|#4. Thomas G. Haren (Frantz Ward)
- Located in Cleveland, Ohio
- First amendment defense lawyer who has experience representing the media and defendants in defamation of character lawsuits
- Provides pro bono litigation services to indigent clients, and clients who are facing defamation claims for constitutionally-protected online speech
- Named to the Ohio Super Lawyers Rising Stars list for 2019-2021
|#3. Melissa D. Bertke (Baker Hostetler)
- Offices all over the country including: Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati
- Skilled litigator and trial attorney
- Practices in a broad range of areas including: business torts, contract disputes, advertising, First Amendment, intellectual property, employment, and environmental claims
- Speaks on many panels and is a member of the Media Law Resource Center
- Names to the Ohio Super Lawyers Rising Stars list for 2014-2019
|#2. The Chandra Law Firm LLC
- Located in Cleveland, Ohio
- Focuses on civil-rights, white collar criminal defense, and internal investigations (handles both plaintiff and defendant)
- Admitted to practice law in Ohio and California
- Credentials include: former federal prosecutor, law director for the City of Cleveland, and special presidential counsel at the American Bar Association
- Helped obtain a defamation judgment of over $4.1 million on behalf of a comedian and commentator against the publisher of a white-supremacist website
|#1. Aaron Minc and Minc LLC
- Located in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio
- Solely focuses on internet defamation law and internet content removal
- Nationally recognized leader in the area of internet defamation
- Some success stories include: forcing one of the largest book publishers to alter the memoir of a celebrity author, successfully remove defamatory and embarrassing YouTube content for a leader of a foreign government, and removal of more than 25 news articles from the internet involving a client’s false arrest for serious criminal charges
Do not forget to check out our comprehensive article breaking down the top defamation lawyers and law firms in the United States!
Get Started With an Experienced Ohio Defamation Attorney Today
Our experienced online defamation attorneys are here to help, whether you are located in Ohio or on the other side of the globe. With more than 350 defamation cases under our belt, we know what it takes to win a defamation lawsuit.
“Minc law, and specifically Melanie, was a huge help during a very frustrating situation. They responded to my inquiry and handled my issue very quickly. They were easy to work with and attended to my issue without any judgment. I am very grateful for the work of Minc Law.”
ANM, Nov 28, 2019
We believe in empowering others with legal knowledge and transparency. That is why we provide a free Legal Resource Center and clearly outline what you can expect when working with us – from pricing to what you can expect during a consultation.
To learn more about what sets Minc Law apart, check out our article, “5 Reasons Why You Should Choose Minc Law.” We also recommend checking out our Pricing page and the article “Thinking About Contacting Minc Law? Here’s What to Expect” to help you make an informed decision.
If you would like to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation, you can reach out by calling us at (216) 373-7706, speaking with a Chat Representative, or filling out our contact form.