My question involves defamation in the state of: Colorado.
I am part of a company that throws music events. We recently put on an outdoor concert, and our sound engineer secured a generator for us. The generator did not work, and had been obtained from a friend of the sound engineer. After the festival we made multiple attempts to to contact the generator owner in order to negotiate a settlement, something less than the price we'd agreed to pay for use of the generator, as a matter of good faith.
I should point out that there was no contract between us and the generator owner, nor between the generator owner and the sound engineer. Our contract with the sound engineer makes no mention of the generator. In other words, even though the generator did not work, and there was no contract legally obliging us to pay for it, we tried our best to make things as right as we could, but the generator owner failed to contact us despite several attempts.
Several weeks passed, and suddenly an ex-employee and friend of the generator owner then proceeded to make several public posts to Facebook over a 2-week period accusing us of "ripping off" his ex-employer. Many comments were made by the public to these posts saying such things as "I can't believe they did that - I'm never supporting them again". We made contact with the ex-employee/friend of the generator owner and told him we were doing our best to work something out, and this individual removed some, but not all, of the posts. Today the ex-employee/friend of the generator owner made more posts, accusing us not just of "ripping off" his ex-employer, but of stealing from the companies that had set up vending booths at our concert. Several individuals who are part of the event-throwing company were specifically accused by name of stealing and pocketing funds illegally. This same ex-employee/friend of the generator owner said he knew for a fact that the music event company were thieves and did this sort of thing all the time in order to personally enrich themselves.
All of these posts were publicly made to Facebook in the midst of a back and forth with the generator owner over how much we owed him. The generator owner admitted in the email that he was coordinating his activities with the ex-employee in order to exact pressure on us. He said that if we didn't pay up, he would "unleash" the ex-employee "for real". When contacted, the ex-employee of the generator owner admitted that he was making up these allegations of theft and fraud in order to "get results".
We feel our reputation has been unnecessarily and maliciously maligned, that we were essentially blackmailed into settling for a much higher price than we thought we should pay. Both the generator owner and his employee seemed to gloat that they had been able to use these public Facebook posts accusing us of criminal wrongdoing to get the result they did. We were told that if we simply paid up, it would all go away. The ex-employee/friend of the generator owner has a reputation for harassing people online. They've been reported to Facebook multiple times but Facebook won't remove or suspend their account.
The amount in dispute is less than $1000, but in the event promotion business, reputation is everything, and what we believe will happen is, if people believe what was said (no retraction was done, the posts were simply taken down, and many comments were made by people saying that they believe the accusations and would act accordingly) they will simply not attend the concerts we throw in the future and we will suffer economically as a result. We can prove that the specific accusations of stealing from vendors are false, and have a paper trail a month long showing a good faith effort on our part to resolve the dispute over the non-working generator that was rented without a contract.
We are not interested in collecting economic damages, we just want this person to publicly apologize and inform people that the allegations they made were false. It is hard to believe that this level of harassment is legal. Do we have any recourse? We have copies of all the Facebook posts and all the emails. After we sent payment, the posts were taken down, but no retractions were made. We were told by the generator owner that we had "done the right thing".
We were told that suing would be more trouble than it's worth, I simply cannot believe that people would behave in this way, admit to in explicitly over emails, and get away with it.
I apologize for the length. I was simply trying to relay as many details as I possibly could. Suggestions on editing for conciseness are welcomed. Just wasn't sure which details were unimportant.