Got an e-mail from the lawyers today. Two of our companies (from here out: Company AB) as well as an employee of the new owners' scrap yard (from here out: Company C) are being sued by another scrapyard (from here out: Company D).
Now, here's the story:
Once I walked away from the business, there was a text message with a picture that was circulated showing one of Company C's bins loaded on a trailer in Company D's yard, and stating "Company D is stealing metals."
The way the scrap business works out here is that if your bin is in a yard, you have the contract on the scrap in that bin and you own whatever metal is put into that bin. No other company is to touch that bin. If they acquire the contract, they can put their bin on the property, but they cannot touch the other company's bin.
So, the lawsuit states that Company AB, C, and C's employee have engaged in defamation that lead to Company D losing business.
Now, in order for Company D to prove that they've been defamed, they must prove that the following four items are true about the statement:
The first requirement is that the statement must be published. It could be argued that the text message would count as being "published."
The second requirement is that the statement must be false. In this case, it's not false. Company D knowingly unloaded metals from Company C's bin. How can we prove it was knowingly done? Company C's logo is prominently featured on all sides of the bin. I would say that this requirement is the most important, and Company D does not have the truth on their side.
The third requirement is that the statement is injurious. For the statement to have been injurious, Company D would have had to lose something through respect/reputation or finances. Company D has already been known to engage in these types of acts, so it certainly isn't a matter of losing respect or reputation, and as far as I'm aware, Company C's employee does not willingly engage with the clientele of Company D, so proving a financial loss will be quite difficult.
The fourth requirement is that the statement made is unprivileged - the originator of the statement would not have the right to say what was said. Given that Company C's employee was driving past the location and noticed the incident ocurring as it ocurred, I think they'll have a hard time proving this one as well.
Now, let's go back a bit. Company D is suing Company AB, C, and an employee of Company C. Given that Company AB is not involved in any way in the matter, I'm advising them to file a countersuit for any and all court and lawyer costs related to the matter.
The whole thing is ridiculous. I'm glad I'm done with that industry, as it has turned into a bunch of bitties just biting one another back and forth.
(This post has an update here.
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