I want to write a book about the struggles of being a parent of a child who has severe anaphylaxis allergies to nuts. Over the years, I have experienced struggles with certain organizations or public establishments. Some places comply and have plans in place regarding allergies and children, some I have educated and inspired to add and include addendums and rules, and some have made us feel excluded and discrimanted against.

I have messages from individuals associated with certain organizations that defend non compliance, even though a child's life is at risk, and refer to outdated guidelines, that do not even cover every aspect of the organizations activities. I want to share the array of reactions that parents may face. How can I do that without possible defamation?


Defamation is unlikely to be an issue

If they wrote it it’s true and truth is a defense to defamation.

However, if you selectively quote out of context to portray the person in a harsh light, that can be defamation. For a contrived example, quoting only “The policies of the Nazis were just” and leaving off “... a symptom of the abhorrent people in that organization” is clearly defamatory.

Similarly, attributing motives to the author beyond what the plain text says can also be defamation.

However, ...

There are still a number of other issues:

  • Copyright - you don’t own this so, prima facie you cant reproduce it unless if falls within a fair use/dealing. Given your usage this is certainly arguable but not certain.
  • Expectation of privacy - depending on the nature of the correspondence the person who sent it may have a reasonable expectation of privacy. While this is unlikely to apply to official correspondence of an organization, it may apply if the correspondence is more personal or intimate.

Why identify people or organizations?

If your purpose is, as you say, to highlight your experience, why do you need to identify specific people or organizations? Anonymous or broad examples (“an airline replied” etc.) would be just as illuminating.

Do your research

You use the expression “non-compliance”. Be precise with what is not being complied with, whether compliance is mandatory or voluntary and what exemptions exist. Usually, compliance requires “reasonable efforts” or similar - trivially is is not reasonable to exclude nuts from a peanut butter factory.

  • Thank you for the reply.The definition of noncompliance is failure to act in accordance with a wish or command. The organization knowingly defends their stance despite the fact a child's life is at risk, when accommodation is a perfectly viable option. And the specific organization does not need mention, nor the individuals names, so if I use a general description of the organization and post texts without identifying who wrote them, as quotes, that should be OK, then, correct? – Jennifer Walsh Aug 18 '19 at 3:11
  • Would sharing the experience, for instance, that a well known organization disregards a parent's concerns for their child's safety for a social activity, that might, otherwise, exclude said child, due to what is considered a disability according to the ADA and section 504, and due to that exclusion, has caused said child to quote, "hate thenselves", be categorized as fair use? Does that qualify? Would that be defamation? – Jennifer Walsh Aug 18 '19 at 3:19

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