Q: Can I file a lawsuit against someone for calling me a “lazy sod”?

I work at sea and recently contacted a fellow colleague with regards to assistance with work. He replied and indicated that if I needed more help he was willing to assist. I emailed him back taking up his assistance however his supervisor replied stating I should do the work myself and referring to me as a “lazy sod”. This was uncalled for as I was not harming anyone and it’s general practice to ask for assistance from other vessels regarding this issue.

2 Lawyer Answers
Tom Evans
Tom Evans
PREMIUM
Answered
  • Maritime Law Lawyer
  • Seattle, WA

A: Was any of this due to your being a minority of some sort - race color creed personal orientation? If so you may be able to make a civil rights claim. Otherwise you are left with defamation which likely tequire much more harm.

Tim Akpinar agrees with this answer

Tim Akpinar
Tim Akpinar
Answered
  • Maritime Law Lawyer
  • Little Neck, NY

A: I agree with Mr. Evans. Things could depend on context, where if the conduct was somehow connected to civil rights or discrimination, that could be something to discuss with an attorney. However, it's possible you might not be aboard a U.S. flag vessel, as "sod" is a term more commonly used in the UK. So that could mean the race, color, national original protections of U.S. law in that vein (the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and related legislation) might not necessarily be applicable. If that's the case, there may be provisions of UK law that apply.

It's important to keep in mind that defamation claims can be tough and expensive. Sometimes a plaintiff could spend considerable money and time on a matter that leads nowhere. It sounds like you work in some sort of fleet operation involving multiple vessels. Based on your mention of vessel assist, one possibility, among others, is that your work involves anchor-handling tugs or positioning vessels related to offshore oil work. That could mean there is something to keep in mind from a safety standpoint in terms of being discouraged from requesting assistance from other vessels.

If a mate or master faces a situation requiring the involvement of a second or third vessel for safety reasons, either to avoid risk to a single vessel or to avoid peril to deckhands and other topside personnel, or to reduce environmental risk from a marine casualty, and they are ridiculed or called out for it, that isn't necessarily a good policy. It could discourage requesting assistance in dangerous conditions and that could create an unsafe work atmosphere.

These are only some general observations based on the brief description. You are always free to consult with an attorney for a more in-depth discussion of the matter. Good luck

Tim Akpinar

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