Most defamation cases are simply too small for a lawyer to handle and too costly for the average plaintiff to sustain. The cost of litigation can easily exceed $50,000 and most lawyers charge by the hour and demand a significant retainer upfront.
So what do you do if you’ve just been defamed?
One answer is to file a complaint in Small Claims court. Small Claims court provides a relatively quick and inexpensive method to pursue your rights. An individual can file a claim of up to $7,500 and a corporation or other business entity can file a claim up to $5,000. Here is a list of some of the following benefits of filing in Small Claims Court.
- It’s quick – you can generally get a court date within one month from the date you file the complaint. That’s lightning fast in the legal world, especially given that most normal cases can drag on for years before they get to trial. You also want a quick resolution because the defamation may be ongoing and your reputation may be suffering as a result.
- It’s inexpensive – the filing fee is typically between $30 and $75, depending on how much you are claiming.
- It’s decisive – The court will render a decision regarding the merits of your claim on the appointed date and fashion an appropriate remedy based on the facts presented to the court. Courts may issue a money award and/or order the defendant to stop publishing comments about you or your business.
While you don’t need to hire an attorney in most cases (in fact, attorneys are not permitted to appear in small claims court), it may be to your advantage to seek an experienced attorney’s advice before going before a judge, especially in situations involving internet defamation. You do not want to waste your time and money on a claim that has little or no merit.