We like to think that we are all entitled to “freedom of speech”, but it seems that is not always the case! If you seek to defame someone in a written or graphic format, you might end up with a libel suit on your hands.
Yes, we all have opinions. And, some of us are more vocal about our views than others. If the person you talk about has done something wrong, they can’t sue you for telling a lie. After all; you’re just saying something that is fact.
But, what happens if you accuse someone of a heinous crime? And what if the accusation in question is nothing more than hearsay or speculation? That person has a right to sue you for defamation of character. Especially if your words or pictures are affecting them from a financial point of view.
If someone is threatening to sue you because of something you said about them in public, don’t panic. Instead, now is the time to remain calm and collected. Keep reading and I will share with you some ideas on what you can do next.
Note: This article in no way forms “proper” legal advice. For legal advise please speak to a lawyer.
Look at the contents of your letter. The first thing you need to do is identify what the letter is all about. If there’s a subpoena or other legal complaint attached, now is the time to see your lawyer. If you don’t have one, check out sites like Legal Services Link to find one near to you.
Just remember to stay calm and focused. If you’ve never received a formal legal letter before, it can be quite an intimidating time. It’s crucial that you focus on the letter you received and weigh up your options before you proceed. After all; the last thing you want to do is get yourself into more trouble by doing something silly.
Who sent you the letter? Is the name of the person that sent you the letter a court official? If they aren’t, it’s likely you have received a “Cease and Desist” letter in the mail.
In layman’s terms, it’s a letter from a lawyer telling you to stop what you’re doing or face a lawsuit. You often hear about people getting C&D letters if they make false claims about a company. But, you will also get such a communication if you did the same thing to an individual.
Has the sender defined a legal basis for their argument? If so, it’s likely they will give you a time limit to take action or respond. If you know you’ve done something wrong, now is the time to put an end to it.
Bear in mind that, in some cases, if the sender is from another country, their request might not be valid in yours. It’s worth clarifying your legal position with an attorney before you do anything else.
How to proceed? Last, but not least, you usually have a few options when it comes to your next move. First, you could follow the sender’s request and stop the activity to which they refer.
Second, you could ignore their correspondence and hope they never contact you again. But, third, if the matter is rather serious, it’s wise to seek legal representation now.
Photo by Christopher Campbell