I posted a complaint about a publisher on a website and it was all true. But, the publisher is now threatening to sue me for libel. I’m not willing to remove the story and offer a “public apology” as he demands. I was all true, but I’m still afraid. I can’t afford a lawyer. What should I do?
I’m not a lawyer, so you should get professional advice from an attorney. What I’m offering here is my OPINION only.
We get lawsuit threats all the time because of our Whispers and Warnings forum. Companies think we’ll simply remove postings about them based on their word alone, claiming their innocence. Ha. I’ve been doing this long enough to know which complaints are likely true and which ones are questionable or a simple misunderstanding. And, 99% of the complaints we receive are valid. Here’s what I can tell you from my experience with meaningless lawsuit threats…
Most people who threaten lawsuits are blowin’ smoke. I once interviewed the owner of fuc*edcompany.com and, at that time, he had literally tens of thousands of negative posts on his site about companies. He’d been served with numerous cease and desist letters, but had never been sued.
This is not uncommon. People who threaten to sue you (with no intention of doing so) for exposing their dishonest activities are bullies, and probably have been since grade school. He thinks that he can scare you into silence by throwing around words like “libel”, “slander” and “defamation.” Don’t let these bullies manipulate you. And, if a lawsuit did evolve, only a slimy (or stupid) lawyer would take his case. And, if you told the truth, he doesn’t have a case. The truth is the absolute defense against libel accusations.
If you receive questionable correspondence from an “attorney”, ask for his or her state bar number. Then, find that state’s bar online and verify that the attorney is a real person and that the numbers match. I’ve encountered many false attorneys over the past few years, which have actually been publishers and editors pretending to be their own attorneys. Practicing law without a license is illegal. And, claiming to be someone they’re not is fraud.
I’ve been threatened with more lawsuits than I can count. One particularly gruesome one is now under investigation with a state’s attorney general. The guy is, I believe, mentally ill. He keeps threatening to show up at our home. I think, in reality, he wants to kill me. (Yeah, never thought I’d experience this when I started WritersWeekly, but I’m getting used to it.) He’s a slime ball and we weren’t afraid to tell the world about him on WritersWeekly. The attorney general was very happy to go after a guy who threatens to sue people in an attempt to shut them up. And, I’ve received emails from others that he’s done it to, so it’s simply the way he does business. He’s a bully, plain and simple. (He’s one of the ones who created his own fictitious attorney.)
I’ve even received lawsuit threats from real attorneys, which our attorney was happy to chase away with just a few print or electronic samples of evidence, proving their clients’ illegal or unethical actions. Reputable attorneys won’t hesitate to drop a complaint when they receive firm evidence that their client is engaged in illegal activities.
Unfortunately, a lot of people (mean, dishonest, naughty people) do business this way. I’m sure you’re not the first person this joker has threatened with a lawsuit. And, unfortunately, it works most of the time. When people are threatened with a lawsuit, most cower, close their mouths and comply with the mean person’s requests, which is silly. One woman I heard from awhile back actually posted a public apology to avoid a threatened (and baseless) lawsuit. However, every word of what she said about the publisher was true.
The vast majority of lawsuit threats come from bullies who are trying to push around nice people like you and me. When a bad person is caught with his pants down, and you’re the one holding his waistband, he’ll do anything to take back control of his reputation. But, if you’re a victim and you want to help others avoid him in the future, let those drawers fall, honey!