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We have an article about someone's activities that I believe was written carefully to avoid libel:

http://pdacamp.com/Sam-Wolanyk-and-Tangod-Up-In-Blues/

Now the party in question is threatening to sue (but of course refuses to point to which sections he believes are libelous)

Is there an easy resource to get legal advice on whether this falls under libel or not, or do we have to pay the $$ to "lawyer up" if we want to be safe?

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    Can the allegations be proven true? Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 19:49
  • Are they asking for you to do anything specific? In other words, if they did sue, what remedy would they seek?
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 19:53
  • I did a rollback but the site does not display my reason for that. The publication at issue is relevant to --at the very least-- ascertain whether it contains statements of fact rather than only statements of opinion. The link to the publication should remain unless the OP himself prefers to remove it from his post. Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 20:35
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    @IñakiViggers opining on whether specific statements in an article are statements of fact or of opinion in the context of a potential libel action is providing legal advice.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 20:39
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    @IñakiViggers I deleted the link because (a) it's irrelevant to question where to get legal advice, (b) if it is libellous, then it reduces the risk of additional exposure. Also, following your reason for rolling it back, (c) IMO it's not our place to ascertain what the link contains. (And I have no desire to get in to an edit war)
    – user35069
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 20:44

1 Answer 1

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Now the party in question is threatening to sue (but of course refuses to point to which sections he believes are libelous) ... do we have to pay the $$ to "lawyer up" if we want to be safe?

If you get sued, you will definitely want a lawyer. If you don't get sued, well, in that case you're safe. So your first question is whether the supposedly aggrieved party will actually sue. Your second question is, if they sue, do they have a good case? That question will be useful in deciding whether to settle.

If the threats are empty then you might want to hire a lawyer to call their bluff. Otherwise you may have to endure the continual empty threats. This is especially true if the libel case is weak. Your lawyer can write a letter that explains why there is no case.

If they do sue, they will have to identify the specific libelous statements, so you will at that point be able to refute the claims. But you'll also want a lawyer at that point, so you won't have to be directly concerned with the details; your lawyer will take care of them.

As suggested in a comment, do keep in mind that a true statement cannot be libelous, by definition. To the extent that you can prove that every statement in the piece is true then you don't have much to worry about. But even then you'll want a lawyer's advice, because even if you know yourself that everything is true, you don't know what it will take to prove that in court. (Another aspect of the element of falsity is that statements of opinion are generally not defamatory.)

To learn for yourself about the elements of libel you can start with Wikipedia or a bit of internet searching. To get a thorough analysis of the facts of your case in light of the laws of the relevant jurisdictions, you will need to engage a lawyer. It might not cost as much as you fear.

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  • Thanks for the answer. In this case all the statements of fact are true, so I do not believe he has any case, but I expect he will sue just the same. But your answer implies that it will be my job to prove the statements are true - I was under the impression that it's the burden of the plaintiff, not the defendant, to show that the statements are or are not true - is that not the case?
    – Dave S.
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 2:26
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    @DavidLjungMadisonStellar "it will be my job to prove the statements are true". You will have that burden of proof if you list truth among your affirmative defenses and wish to prevail on the basis of that defense. As for "endur[ing] the continual empty threats", that applies only while the statute of limitations has not expired. In most of the US the statute of limitations for defamation is one year. Only in few jurisdictions/states it is six months. Once expired, you could prevail [also] on those grounds, provided that you don't inadvertently or intentionally waive that defense. Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 13:50
  • @DavidLjungMadisonStellar to the extent that the plaintiff must identify false statements, the plaintiff's job will be difficult to impossible if you can prove everything to be true. You can argue that the plaintiff hasn't met a burden of proof, but that's a weaker argument than proving that the plaintiff is wrong.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 17:44
  • Right - but it's really difficult to prove that something happened. I.e., an event happens, I post/write about it as it happened, and then I can get sued for libel because I don't have evidence that it happened? It seems like if the plaintiff is trying to claim that I am lying about what happened, he should have to prove that it's not true. Otherwise we can never really write up anything we don't have recorded evidence of.
    – Dave S.
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 4:18
  • The statute of limitations is the best info yet. Evidently it applies to content on the web according to initial publication date which means that not only is his case a joke, he doesn't even have the right to sue.
    – Dave S.
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 4:20

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