Q: Libel question regarding the comments section of a local/regional online forum for neighborhood residents.
I recently commented on a forum post. The situation I commented on was odd and many people questioned it, including me. My comment was a bit disrespectful, another poster gave more information, which led me to apologizing publicly & going on to support the poster. In this process, a woman poster, who had attacked me once before in the forum, posted statements about my mental state, accused me of blaming others for my 'problems', and other derogatory statements. These were statements, not prefaced by "I think..." or "It seems to me..." to qualify the statements as opinion. They were presented as fact ("You are..."). I have blocked the person, but no longer interact on the forum, as I don't want to be publicly attacked again. I have a business, but it's an international client base (book editor), so she cannot harm my professional life. I wonder if I should consider asking for a stern letter from an attorney advising her of the potential for libel? Thanks.
A: Based on the information you shared, I don't think you'd have a viable case for defamation for two reasons. First, you haven't articulated any objectively false statement she made about you. Second, you haven't articulated any damages that you suffered. Hurt feeling are not enough. Whether to hire an attorney to send a stern letter is your choice. A good letter might cause her to stop posting about you or it might set her off.
Here's the leading Missouri Supreme Court case on defamation. Enjoy the read. https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=18144203630447282264&q=defamation&hl=en&as_sdt=4,26
Ronald J. Eisenberg
Schultz & Associates LLP
640 Cepi Drive, Suite A
Chesterfield, MO 63005
Direct: (636) 733-6647
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