– Cynthia Hsu is a contributor to FindLaw’s Free Enterprise blog. FindLaw is a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. –

With the down economy, businesses these days are trying everything to get an edge. But whatever you do, be wary of defamation laws. For example: calling your rival car dealership something akin to the “Taliban Toyota” might just end up costing you millions.

That’s exactly what happened in the case of Bob Tyler Toyota of Pensacola, Florida. Employees at the Toyota dealership spread rumors and slurs about Shawn Esfahani, the owner of the Eastern Shore Toyota in Daphne, Alabama. They told customers that he was funneling money to insurgents. And that he was an Iraqi terrorist.

Esfahani is actually a naturalized U.S. citizen who is from Iran. The Taliban are an extremist group originating out of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Esfahani brought a suit against Bob Tyler Toyota, alleging defamation. He prevailed. A jury deliberated for three hours before handing down their verdict: $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.