+ Reply to Thread
Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 17
  1. #1
    cklx215 is offline Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Posts
    7

    protect myself from Defamation of Character

    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? Pennsylvania


    I am a college student and was being sexually harassed and reported the guy but all the school did was to end contact. Now, I sent an e-mail out to the students and my teachers everything about him and the school found out and claiming he can sue me for it because he was not found guilty, and my report on him was just an accusation. Now my concerns are, how much could he sue me on? my income? and how can I protect myself from being sued? Please help.
  2. #2
    Proserpina is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Watching you eat your Cheerios
    Posts
    39,104
    Quote Originally Posted by cklx215 View Post
    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? Pennsylvania


    I am a college student and was being sexually harassed and reported the guy but all the school did was to end contact. Now, I sent an e-mail out to the students and my teachers everything about him and the school found out and claiming he can sue me for it because he was not found guilty, and my report on him was just an accusation. Now my concerns are, how much could he sue me on? my income? and how can I protect myself from being sued? Please help.
    Until you are actually served there perhaps isn't a whole lot you can do outside of apologising profusely and perhaps publicly for what you said although others might advise that this is an admission of guilt. Depending on the nature of what you did actually say you may be best advised to consult with an attorney.

    Was he ever formally charged? What were the nature of the allegations? Did you send the email before the matter was resolved, afterwards, when?
  3. #3
    cklx215 is offline Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Posts
    7
    Quote Originally Posted by Dogmatique View Post
    Until you are actually served there perhaps isn't a whole lot you can do outside of apologising profusely and perhaps publicly for what you said although others might advise that this is an admission of guilt. Depending on the nature of what you did actually say you may be best advised to consult with an attorney.

    Was he ever formally charged? What were the nature of the allegations? Did you send the email before the matter was resolved, afterwards, when?
    My school told me not to contact him, no apologies, they want NOTHING to be said. I just told who he is, where u can find him on facebook, and how he looks at females on campus. My e-mail is 100% true and I do have witnesses to back me up. he was never charged because my school didn't charge him of anything, it's just an accusation. i sent the e-mail after my school said there was to be no contact so i felt they did nothing and let my anger get out of hand. i realize it was bad move cuz he can charge me with defamation of character BUT i have no assets, or any big income.
    thanks for ur advice
  4. #4
    cklx215 is offline Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Posts
    7
    also, he use to be a cop for 8 years. now he's just a maintenance worker at my school. so i'm pretty sure he knows the law and his rights. someone just told me, he would be wasting his time and money to sue to me and i shouldn't worry much.
  5. #5
    Proserpina is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Watching you eat your Cheerios
    Posts
    39,104
    Quote Originally Posted by cklx215 View Post
    My school told me not to contact him, no apologies, they want NOTHING to be said. I just told who he is, where u can find him on facebook, and how he looks at females on campus. My e-mail is 100% true and I do have witnesses to back me up. he was never charged because my school didn't charge him of anything, it's just an accusation. i sent the e-mail after my school said there was to be no contact so i felt they did nothing and let my anger get out of hand. i realize it was bad move cuz he can charge me with defamation of character BUT i have no assets, or any big income.
    thanks for ur advice
    You're obviously aware that you did something incredibly foolish - you sent an email accusing him of something with no proof whatsoever (you and your friends observing the way he looks at female students is proof of nothing at all). Your income and/or assets may not be much of a factor - if a judgment was obtained it could feasibly be valid and/or renewed for as much as 20 years and it's unlikely that you would remain at your current level of income for that length of time.

    Having said that I believe it's highly unlikely he will bring suit - defamation suits can become very expensive and time-consuming. So from this moment forward, say nothing at all further about or to this man. Period. Not to your friends, not to acquaintances, workmates, nobody.

    Because at the end of the day he has been found to be guilty of absolutely nothing at all - and you may be the one having to defend yourself y'know?
  6. #6
    cklx215 is offline Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Posts
    7
    i have plenty of proof. that's the only way i can go to my school to report him. i have text messages from him, comments from him, a faculty member knows how he is and he admitted to what he did to me to the school. i would'nt tell without proof of what he done.
  7. #7
    quincy is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    12,280
    I agree with Dogmatique's first piece of advice that you would be wise to consult with an attorney. Have the attorney review the email you sent. And you will definitely want to have an attorney, should you be served with a complaint.

    No one can predict if this guy will sue you over the statements you made, but he could. Saying you were sexually harassed by this man, after he was found not guilty of sexual harassment, is defamatory. It is not 100% true. In addition, making comments about how the man "looks at females on campus" defames him by implication, and is reputationally injurious.

    It does not matter if you are a student now, with no income and no assets. If this guy sues and wins a judgment against you, he can attach future income and future assets. You will not always be a poor college student.

    It is true that defamation actions are expensive to pursue, and this guy may very well decide it is not worth his time or money to sue you. Whether he files suit against you could depend on how badly your comments have damaged his reputation on campus, and on whether he consults with an attorney who advises him to sue.

    The rest of Dogmatique's advice to you is wise, as well.
    Last edited by quincy; 10-22-2009 at 07:58 PM.
  8. #8
    cklx215 is offline Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Posts
    7
    i did not put in the details of what he did but here it is...
    -poke side of my hips
    -pull my hair
    -compliments me
    -asks me out repeatedly after being told to stop he continued to
    -took a picture of a female who was applying for a job in my office without her consent on the first day he seen her while he was working but is not suppose to be in the office
    -dropped my friend home and drove around the block to see where she lived because she lied to him about where exactly her house is (she needed a ride because septa takes 2 hours to get home)
    -he told me to "eat a dick"
    who the hell says that???
    i would not have reported him if he ONLY watched females on the campus and didn't approach any of us. he's been harassing ME.
    i have MUCH more to say.
    if you don't think this is proof, then i don't know what is.
    that is why i was so outraged and sent an email out.
  9. #9
    Proserpina is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Watching you eat your Cheerios
    Posts
    39,104
    Quote Originally Posted by cklx215 View Post
    i did not put in the details of what he did but here it is...
    -poke side of my hips
    -pull my hair
    -compliments me
    -asks me out repeatedly after being told to stop he continued to
    -took a picture of a female who was applying for a job in my office without her consent on the first day he seen her while he was working but is not suppose to be in the office
    -dropped my friend home and drove around the block to see where she lived because she lied to him about where exactly her house is (she needed a ride because septa takes 2 hours to get home)
    -he told me to "eat a dick"
    who the hell says that???
    i would not have reported him if he ONLY watched females on the campus and didn't approach any of us. he's been harassing ME.
    i have MUCH more to say.
    if you don't think this is proof, then i don't know what is.
    that is why i was so outraged and sent an email out.

    You sent out an email discussing things which have not and had not been proven. This in itself is a harmful act. The fact that you did this after a decision had been made by the school about the allegations only compounds the issue.
  10. #10
    cklx215 is offline Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Posts
    7
    how has it not been proven? if he admitted to it all? just cuz the school didnt want to help dont mean he's not guilty
  11. #11
    Proserpina is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Watching you eat your Cheerios
    Posts
    39,104
    Quote Originally Posted by cklx215 View Post
    how has it not been proven? if he admitted to it all? just cuz the school didnt want to help dont mean he's not guilty
    Do you have documentation from any authority confirming the details of the investigation and his confession or admitted statements?

    Please understand something - we are not here to try and blow a hole in what you want to do. But you must bear in mind that what you think is proof - at least in the legal sense of what constitutes "proof" - is not necessarily accurate.
  12. #12
    Proserpina is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Watching you eat your Cheerios
    Posts
    39,104
    Quote Originally Posted by cklx215 View Post
    how has it not been proven? if he admitted to it all? just cuz the school didnt want to help dont mean he's not guilty
    (actually for all intents and purposes that's exactly what it does mean - and it will remain that way until and unless he is officially and/or legally found to be guilty of the things of which he is accused)
  13. #13
    cklx215 is offline Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Posts
    7
    Quote Originally Posted by Dogmatique View Post
    (actually for all intents and purposes that's exactly what it does mean - and it will remain that way until and unless he is officially and/or legally found to be guilty of the things of which he is accused)
    it has all been documented.
    the person who handled this didn't say he denied anything but they didn't find him guilty. well then i just have to see what happens if this gets out.
    just to prepare myself, what do you think i should do? get a lawyer just in case? you think i would lose don't you?
  14. #14
    quincy is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    12,280
    I think you should follow Dog's advice and not say anything further to or about this man to anyone, and you should have absolutely no contact of any kind with him. If served with a complaint, hire an attorney.

    There is no way to tell if you would lose a defamation action if this guy decides to file suit against you. He will probably only file suit if he finds your comments have adversely affected his relationships with the teachers or staff or administrators or students on campus to the extent that he cannot function in his job effectively, or he loses his job.

    All this man needs to do to win a defamation action against you is to prove the statements you emailed to various and assorted people on campus were defamatory, that you were at least negligent with respect to the making of these statements, and his reputation has suffered as a result.

    Your defenses to a defamation suit would be limited to truth, substantial truth, opinion or privilege. The statements you made are not covered by any privilege, and opinion that implies defamatory fact is not protected opinion (although the wording of the emails should be reviewed carefully, to see if your statements can pass as opinion). Using truth to support your claim of sexual harassment can be defeated with the school's finding of no guilt.

    Therefore, you are probably left with just a defense of substantial truth. Substantial truth as a defense can fly when there are minor factual inaccuracies, but the gist or the sting of the statement remains true despite these inaccuracies.

    In the cases where this defense has been used successfully, the minor inaccuracies are minor - saying someone tested positive for cocaine when they really tested positive for heroin; saying someone was beaten 10 times when they were really beaten 8. The gist of the statements are true, and the effect of the statements are not changed substantially by the inaccuracy.

    In your case, you are claiming sexual harassment based on evidence that the school has already discounted, however. You claim sexual harassment when, essentially, there was no finding of sexual harassment. Although it is possible that a good attorney could help you use this defense effectively with the documentation you have (and I agree that, based on what you report here, that the man's actions are a bit questionable), it is not a sure thing by any means.

    To combat a defense of substantial truth, the man would need to have convincing evidence of the falsity of your statements. Although the school's finding of no guilt may be convincing enough for the court, balanced against your documentation it could be a toss up. In the event of a "toss up," and to your favor, courts give the benefit of any doubt to defendants.

    I think you may benefit from having an attorney review your emailed statements now. Go over with the attorney all that led up to your sending of the emails. This can give you a clearer picture of what you may face and how to address any suit that may arise.

    Again, the man may decide to drop the matter, especially if he is finding support from his employer/the school. He could chalk it all up to an irrational student over-reacting to innocent actions. He may never seek legal counsel.

    If he does, however, and he sues, you must deal with it. For dealing with it, you should have an attorney.
    Last edited by quincy; 10-23-2009 at 09:11 AM.
  15. #15
    Stevef is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    I dunno. What time is it?
    Posts
    6,260
    Quote Originally Posted by quincy View Post
    Using truth to support your claim of sexual harassment can be defeated with the school's finding of no guilt.
    The standard of proof for a civil claim would be a preponderance of evidence (more likely than not), where the standard of proof for a criminal conviction is beyond a reasonable doubt.

    If a jury found the employee not guilty, that doesn't necessarily preclude using truth as a defense to a defamation action.

    If there is a 65% chance the statement is true, that is not enough to convict, but it is enough to defeat a defamation claim.

    Otherwise, I agree with everything you've written.

Similar Threads

  1. Defamation of character
    By k6gixx in forum Libel / Slander / Defamation
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 01-23-2009, 08:02 AM
  2. Is this Defamation of my Character?
    By joebobconsumer in forum Libel / Slander / Defamation
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 01-21-2009, 04:11 PM
  3. Defamation of Character
    By Dakotas94 in forum Job Discrimination and Harassment
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 12-24-2002, 06:02 AM
  4. defamation of character
    By kevinsfan29 in forum Job Discrimination and Harassment
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 11-23-2002, 12:43 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  

© 1995-2012 Advice Company, All Rights Reserved

FreeAdvice® has been providing millions of consumers with outstanding advice, free, since 1995. While not a substitute for personal advice from a licensed professional, it is available AS IS, subject to our Disclaimer and Terms & Conditions Of Use.