New York, NY asked in Civil Litigation and Small Claims for New York

Q: How can I protect myself when ex-friend is harassing me and trying to extort money from me? Is her case even valid?

I stayed with a friend in another state. I asked if I could visit her and she agreed. We did not discuss any payment. I slept on her floor for 5 nights. We did some outdoor photo shoots together, since my friend is a photographer. After I left, she sent me a nasty email demanding $1730 for the photos she took and $1100 for lodging and transport fees for my visit. Scared by this, I texted "I’m happy to pay the expenses you demanded" attempting to calm her down. She did not respond. I blocked her, but paid for the photos as an act of good faith. I refused to pay the bogus lodging and transport costs. Is my text a binding contract? She is sending harassing emails and threatening to sue and defame me on social media if I don’t pay $1100. I do freelance travel photography for social media, so this could be damaging. I told her to stop contacting me or I would call the police. She replied go ahead and call the police. She seems certain that she can successfully attack me through a lawsuit.

1 Lawyer Answer
Peter J. Weinman
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  • Licensed in New York

A: Without knowing the state your friend lives in, none of us can say for sure, but from my NY perspective, unless you had an agreement in advance, she cannot unilaterally demand "rent" for 5 days on her floor now that she's mad at you. Your text, while not all that helpful, probably does not seal her argument against you. When you paid for the photos (presumably venmo or some other cash app) did you write any comments/memos like "payment in full" or "in full satisfaction of debt?" Anything like that would help if you had done so. Whether she's going to sue you for $1,100 remains to be seen but I would remind her in either event that she should be careful not to defame you lest you have grounds to sue her. If she does sue you, it'll most likely be in small claims court. Depending on what state she's in you might just want to settle this debt to make it go away rather than traveling there and, no doubt, spending many hours of your life in court. If she persists and/or actually starts an action, start by offering her half. But if you do pay her anything, make sure you make it clear (on the payment itself) that it's payment in full satisfaction of all debt to her! Good luck.

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