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Business cannot sue competitor over statements that were opinion or substantially true

The Hantz Group sued two individuals and the Sterling Agency after the Defendants objected to the Hantz Group conducting  marketing activities at Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic parish in Grosse  Pointe Woods.  The Defendants wrote to their parish, claiming that the Defendants were using their professional soccer team, Detroit Ignition, as a marketing tool [a "cover"] to secure access to potential future clients.  The Defendants also claimed that Hantz had been fined approximately $700,000.00 over "charges" of fraud and misrepresentation.  The Plaintiff argued that it had been defamed and that the Defendants had violated the law by interfering with its legitimate business expectations.

The trial court and the Court of Appeals rejected the Hantz Group's lawsuit.  It noted that "substantial truth" is a complete defense to defamation claims and to claims of interference with business.  It also noted that mere "statements of opinion"  are not actionable, and it found that the Defendants' remarks were either true or mere opinion.  It also held that to constitute an interference with a valid business expectancy, there must be a "reasonable likelihood" or a "probability" of future business, not "mere wishful thinking."  By this analysis, the Plaintiff's future expectation that it would enlist clients from the Parish did not meet the definition of a valid "business relationship."
Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262