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 Chilling Effects Clearinghouse > Protest, Parody and Criticism Sites > Notices > defamation and invasion of privacy in communications re sender (NoticeID 1606, http://chillingeffects.org/N/1606) Printer-friendly version

defamation and invasion of privacy in communications re sender

February 14, 2000

 

Sender Information:
[Private]
Sent by: [Private]
[Private]

Recipient Information:
[Private]
[Private]


Sent via: Constable
Re: DEMAND TO CEASE AND DESIST

DEMAND TO CEASE AND DESIST

Dear [Recipient]:

The office has been retained by [Sender] with regard to a number of electronically mailed (e-mail) documents that have been initiated by you to a variety of individuals, including [Sender], that contain defamatory information about him. These documents are dated October 22, 1999 (two documents); November 2, 1999; November 13, 1999; November 16,1999, December 29, 1999; January 28, 2000; and February 8, 2009. It is my opinion after reviewing these documents that you are violating [Sender's] rights pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws ("M.G.L:) Chapter 214, Section 1B (invasion of privacy) by unreasonably, substantially, and seriously interfering with his privacy with respect to communicating the contents of the aforesaid communications. Your communications are also defamatory and malicious which, if proven in a court of law, would subject you to money damages. Additionally, in my opinion, you are intentionally interfering with [Sender's] advantageous relations. Pursuant to the case law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a person who interferes with another's business for the purpose of compelling present or prospective customers (patients) to withhold their patronage is responsible for the harmful consequences. All the foregoing may render you liable for damages suffered as a result.

Unless you immediately cease and desist from communicating these defamatory and damaging comments regarding [Sender] I will file a law suit against you in the Superior Court for invasion of privacy and defamation and I will immediately seek a Preliminary Injunction enjoining and restraining you from making any further defamatory comments or communication regarding [Sender]. I will further seek to have you assessed for all court costs, including legal fees, related to this matter.

I am further directing you that under no circumstances are you to have any communications with [Sender] and in the event you or your attorney find it necessary to have such communications, that they are to be made directly to me at my office.

Your cooperation in this matter will be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

[Sender]

 
FAQ: Questions and Answers

[back to notice text]


Question: What is malice?

Answer: Malice is a conscious, intentional wrongdoing like libel (false written statement about another), with the intention of doing harm to the victim. This intention includes ill-will, hatred or total disregard for the other's well-being. Often the mean nature of the act itself implies malice, without the party saying "I did it because I was mad at him, and I hated him," which would be express malice. In a lawsuit for defamation (libel and slander) the existence of malice may increase the judgment to include general damages (monetary recovery in a lawsuit for injuries suffered). Proof of malice is absolutely necessary for a "public figure" to win a lawsuit for defamation.


[back to notice text]


Question: What is defamation?

Answer: Generally, defamation is a false and unprivileged statement of fact that is harmful to someone's reputation, and published "with fault," meaning as a result of negligence or malice. State laws often define defamation in specific ways. Libel is a written defamation; slander is a spoken defamation.


[back to notice text]


Question: What is defamation?

Answer: Generally, defamation is a false and unprivileged statement of fact that is harmful to someone's reputation, and published "with fault," meaning as a result of negligence or malice. State laws often define defamation in specific ways. Libel is a written defamation; slander is a spoken defamation.


[back to notice text]


Question: What is defamation?

Answer: Generally, defamation is a false and unprivileged statement of fact that is harmful to someone's reputation, and published "with fault," meaning as a result of negligence or malice. State laws often define defamation in specific ways. Libel is a written defamation; slander is a spoken defamation.


[back to notice text]


Question: What are the elements of a defamation claim?

Answer: The party making a defamation claim (plaintiff) must ordinarily prove four elements:

  1. a publication to one other than the person defamed;
  2. a false statement of fact;
  3. that is understood as
  4. a. being of and concerning the plaintiff; and
    b. tending to harm the reputation of plaintiff.
  5. If the plaintiff is a public figure, he or she must also prove actual malice.


[back to notice text]


Question: What defenses may be available to someone who is sued for defamation?

Answer: There are ordinarily 6 possible defenses available to a defendant who is sued for libel (published defamatory communication.)
1. Truth. This is a complete defense, but may be difficult to prove.
2. Fair comment on a matter of public interest. This defense applies to "opinion" only, as compared to a statement of fact. The defendant usually needs to prove that the opinion is honestly held and the comments were not motivated by actual "malice." ( Malice means knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for the truth of falsity of the defamatory statement.)
3. Privilege. The privilege may be absolute or qualified. Privilege generally exists where the speaker or writer has a duty to communicate to a specific person or persons on a given occasion. In some cases the privilege is qualified and may be lost if the publication is unnecessarily wide or made with malice.
4. Consent. This is rarely available, as plaintiffs will not ordinarily agree to the publication of statements that they find offensive.
5. Innocent dissemination. In some caes a party who has no knowledge of the content of a defamatory statement may use this defense. For example, a mailman who delivers a sealed envelope containing a defamatory statement, is not legally liable for any damages that come about from the statement.
6. Plaintiff's poor reputation. Defendant can mitigate (lessen) damages for a defamatory statement by proving that the plaintiff did not have a good reputation to begin with. Defendant ordinarily can prove plaintiff's poor reputation by calling witnesses with knowledge of the plaintiff's prior reputation relating to the defamatory content.


[back to notice text]


Question: What is the "publication" of a defamatory statement?

Answer: Publication is the dissemination of the defamatory statement to any person other than the person about whom the statement is written or spoken.


[back to notice text]


Question: What is defamation?

Answer: Generally, defamation is a false and unprivileged statement of fact that is harmful to someone's reputation, and published "with fault," meaning as a result of negligence or malice. State laws often define defamation in specific ways. Libel is a written defamation; slander is a spoken defamation.


[back to notice text]


Question: What is invasion of privacy?

Answer: Invasion of privacy is the intrusion into the personal life of another, without just cause, which can give the person whose privacy has been invaded a right to bring a lawsuit for damages against the person or entity that intruded. However, public personages are not protected in most situations, since they have placed themselves already within the public eye, and their activities (even personal and sometimes intimate) are considered newsworthy, i.e. of legitimate public interest. However, an otherwise non-public individual has a right to privacy from: a) intrusion on one's solitude or into one's private affairs; b) public disclosure of embarrassing private information; c) publicity which puts him/her in a false light to the public; d) appropriation of one's name or picture for personal or commercial advantage.

-adapted from dictionary.law.com


[back to notice text]


Question: What is false light invasion of privacy?

Answer: "False light" is a claim that publicity invades a person's (plaintiff's) privacy by a false statement or representation that "places the plaintiff in a false light that would be highly offensive to a reasonable person."


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Question: What is the difference between false light invasion of privacy and defamation?

Answer: The distinction between the two is a subtle one. The false light cause of action focuses upon indignity and defamation focuses upon reputation.


[back to notice text]


Question: What is malice?

Answer: Malice is a conscious, intentional wrongdoing like libel (false written statement about another), with the intention of doing harm to the victim. This intention includes ill-will, hatred or total disregard for the other's well-being. Often the mean nature of the act itself implies malice, without the party saying "I did it because I was mad at him, and I hated him," which would be express malice. In a lawsuit for defamation (libel and slander) the existence of malice may increase the judgment to include general damages (monetary recovery in a lawsuit for injuries suffered). Proof of malice is absolutely necessary for a "public figure" to win a lawsuit for defamation.

-adapted from dictionary.law.com


[back to notice text]


Question: What are "actual" and "punitive" damages?

Answer: Actual damages are damages awarded to a winning party to compensate them for a proven injury or loss; damages that repay actual losses.

Punitive damages are damages awarded in addition to actual damages when the defendant acted with recklessness, malice, or deceit. Punitive damages are intended to punish and thereby deter blameworthy conduct.

(Black's Law Dictionary)


[back to notice text]


Question: What is "interference with contract" or "interference with prospective business relations"?

Answer: One can be held liable for intentionally or negligently interfering with the existing or prospective economic relationships of another. (e.g. contractual/business relationships)

The 2d restatement of the law which contain general defintions of the law taken from the laws of many states, defines the tort of Intentional Interference with Prospective Contractual Relations as follows:
"One who intentionally and improperly interferes with another's prospective contractual relation (except a contract to marry) is subject to liability to the other for the pecuniary harm resulting from loss of the benefits of the relation, whether the interference consists of

(a) inducing or otherwise causing a third person not to enter into or continue the prospective relation or
(b) preventing the other from acquiring or continuing the prospective relation."
Rest 2d (Torts) section 766B.


Usually, damages are dependent on proof that "but for" the allegedly interfering behavior, an economic relationship, the contract, would have been entered into.

Most jurisdictions and the restatement have slightly different wording for the seperate tort of interference with an already existing contractual relationship.(e.g. when a 3rd party's behavior prevents the performance of or induces the breach of a pre-existing contract)



[back to notice text]


Question: What is defamation?

Answer: Generally, defamation is a false and unprivileged statement of fact that is harmful to someone's reputation, and published "with fault," meaning as a result of negligence or malice. State laws often define defamation in specific ways. Libel is a written defamation; slander is a spoken defamation.


[back to notice text]


Question: What is a preliminary injunction?

Answer: An order by the court requiring the defendant to do or refrain from doing some action pending a full trial on the merits of the lawsuit. Sometimes in intellectual property litigation, the property owner, soon after filing the complaint, will make a motion for a preliminary injunction requiring the defendant to stop doing those things the plaintiff alleges are infringing the plaintiff's intellectual property rights.


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