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  1. #1
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    Aug 2009
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    Default Can Someone Be Sued For Posting a Personal Letter I Wrote

    My question involves defamation in the state of: CA (and PA)

    A brief scenario:

    I wrote a letter 2 years ago to Mr. H claiming that he was a slanderer and a liar of Mr. Y. I gave a copy of the letter I wrote to him to Mr. Y, since he was the one I was defending and he wanted to see what I wrote. Later, I found that what Mr. H said about Mr. Y is true, so I made amends with Mr. H and he said it's water under the bridge. I broke off all contact with Mr. Y since he is a swindler and a liar.

    Later, we find out that Mr. Y put up a website in which he posted that letter that I wrote. Now, Mr. H wants to sue me for Mr. Y putting up that letter! I tried to get the letter off the website by claiming copyright but the webmaster said that I have to get a court order for that. So my questions are:

    1. Does Mr. H even have a case against me? I didn't even put up that letter and I had no idea that two years later it would be posted online.
    2. Can I get the letter off the website in any way? How do I get a court order?
    3. Is it likely that he would win the case if he does in fact have a case against me? I have read that slander/libel cases are hard to prove because he has to prove that damage was done to his reputation.
    4. If he wins, is the judgment binding?

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Can He Sue for Someone else Posting a Personal Letter I Wrote

    1) Maybe. You did write the letter.

    2) Maybe. You'd have to get an attorney and sue the webmaster. Whether or not you'd prevail is anyone's guess.

    3) We can't answer that. We don't have any psychics on the team here.

    4) Of course it would be. What leads you to believe it wouldn't be binding? When the judge says Frog, you'd best get to jumping.

    You say only that he wants to sue. So for now, leave it be. It's very, very costly to bring a slander/libel action to court, and he may cease his bluster once he finds out 1) how expensive it is and 2) that attorneys don't take these cases on contingency.

    If he DOES sue, retain counsel.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Can He Sue for Someone else Posting a Personal Letter I Wrote

    If you gave a letter to the person who was the one being slandered, you have not committed defamation, as one element is it be communicated to a 3rd party.

    Mr. H. would have no grounds to sue you.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Can He Sue for Someone else Posting a Personal Letter I Wrote

    Quote Quoting BOR
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    If you gave a letter to the person who was the one being slandered, you have not committed defamation, as one element is it be communicated to a 3rd party.

    Mr. H. would have no grounds to sue you.
    So my giving the letter to Mr. Y was not a wrong action? Can you explain the part about communicating it to a third party a bit more?

    Thanks.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Can He Sue for Someone else Posting a Personal Letter I Wrote

    Quote Quoting MrsHatt
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    So my giving the letter to Mr. Y was not a wrong action? Can you explain the part about communicating it to a third party a bit more?

    Thanks.
    Although state defamation law varies, here is a general overview:

    Typically, the elements of a cause of action for defamation include:

    1.A false and defamatory statement concerning another;
    2.The unprivileged publication of the statement to a third party (that is, somebody other than the person defamed by the statement);
    3.If the defamatory matter is of public concern, fault amounting at least to negligence on the part of the publisher; and
    4.Damage to the plaintiff.


    http://www.expertlaw.com/library/per...efamation.html


    Since Y is the person who you claim was defamed, he is NOT a 3rd party, as far as any defamation law I have ever read anywhere.

    Now if you gave a copy to your neighbor Z, that would be a 3rd party, and if the other elements were met, it may be defamation.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Can He Sue for Someone else Posting a Personal Letter I Wrote

    Ok, just for clarification so my heart can rest.
    The letter that I sent Mr. H, in which I was defending Mr. Y, calling Mr. H a liar and a slanderer... Mr. Y is not an "unprivileaged third party" because he was the subject that I was defending?
    So Mr. Y had the right to see the letter, but had no right to publish the letter on the internet to other "third" parties?
    Also, Mr. Y previously believed the allegations that I mistakenly put on Mr. H, so it is not like I changed Mr. Y's idea of Mr. H. Rather, Mr. Y was the one who suggested that Mr. H was a liar and slanderer to me and pruposely hid information to try to convince me of that.

    I'm sorry I'm repeating myself, I just want to be very sure that I'm not the one liable here.

    Thank you for your patience.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Can He Sue for Someone else Posting a Personal Letter I Wrote

    Quote Quoting BOR
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    If you gave a letter to the person who was the one being slandered, you have not committed defamation, as one element is it be communicated to a 3rd party.

    Mr. H. would have no grounds to sue you.
    Wouldn't the OP giving a copy of the letter defaming Mr H to Mr Y meet the criteria for original publication and Mr Y's website be regarded as republication?

    MrsHatt, do you have any proof of Mr H's "water under the bridge" comment?

    Defamation actions are complex, expensive and difficult to win, so there's every chance that Mr H is bluffing, but I'd certainly be documenting any and all steps you've taken to correct the inaccurate information you communicated about Mr H. But they're also expensive to defend, even if you ultimately prevail.

    You might also want to exercise some caution in making any further statements about either Mr H or Mr Y to third parties, at least until Mr H's legal intentions are clear.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Can He Sue for Someone else Posting a Personal Letter I Wrote

    Quote Quoting Lolie
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    Wouldn't the OP giving a copy of the letter defaming Mr H to Mr Y meet the criteria for original publication and Mr Y's website be regarded as republication?


    Republication is just as it implies, defamation that was published again, meaning not the 1st time.

    Hatt, I have never heard of the "3rd party" being the one that was alledgedly slandered.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Can He Sue for Someone else Posting a Personal Letter I Wrote

    That's what I thought. Thanks BOR, you've been most helpful.

    Could be that Mr H is bluffing because honestly he has so much time on his hands and he can act quite rude and childish.. He could just be trying to provoke a reaction from me. As for me, I don't have time for these stupid games.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Can He Sue for Someone else Posting a Personal Letter I Wrote

    Quote Quoting MrsHatt
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    That's what I thought. Thanks BOR, you've been most helpful.

    Could be that Mr H is bluffing because honestly he has so much time on his hands and he can act quite rude and childish.. He could just be trying to provoke a reaction from me. As for me, I don't have time for these stupid games.


    Could be a mind game. IF he sues and has NO valid cause of action, you can countersue for, at minimum, abuse of process.

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