Civil/Commercial Litigation (Lawsuits)/Defamation...

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QUESTION: Hi I need an opinion, essence of the story is, we rented a place, landlord assaulted my husband police were call. The landlord assaulted my husband as she wanted us to leave the windows open when we were not at home and we told her its not safe to do this. She's since that day dreamt up that we said something about her son's father in law. Which we didn't. On the days off she would come down and demand that we clean the garden esp. when I was sick. She then resorted to calling me a mere house wife.

She thinks that because we said something which we didn't that it's defamation, now what is defamation isn't what she said about me defamation that I'm a mere house wife? Just seeking an opinion on this.

ANSWER: Hello j,

Before I respond further to your question, I must make clear that I do not represent you, and cannot give you individual particularized legal advice. No attorney client relationship is created by this email. For legal advice, you should hire your own attorney, and follow their advice. My role with AllExperts is limited to providing general information and suggestions for educational or general knowledge purposes. Before you take any action, consult with your own attorney.

Defamation is a cause of action that occurs in verbal form referred to commonly as slander, and in print its called libel.  Either way, the elements of defamation are the utterance of a a defamatory statement of fact, the publishing or projecting the statement to a third person, and the maker knows or should know the defamatory statement was false when made.

Exceptions and/or defenses to defamation include truth, opinion, parody, etc.  So for example of the famous case of Falwell v Flynt, Larry Flynt was sued for publishing a cartoon in his magazine mocking Jerry Flynt in an extroadinarily crass encounter.  Falwell sued for defamation and suffered a crushing defeat because rather obviously the cartoon was a joke and not made with the intention that it be taken as a direct truthful statement.

In your circumstance, I don't think you would prevail with a defamation against your landlady, and doubt she would do any better against you.  Taking the "you're a mere housewife" statement, It's difficult to imagine that a jury would find that to be a derogatory statement.  Many women are housewives and proud of it.  Further, the landlady could argue that her statement was merely her opinion.  As to the second element, I'm not hearing that she broadcast her message that her tenant is a "mere housewife" to any third person.  Likewise, I can't reckon that you'd manage to prove your landlady knew the statement is false; if she believes it to be true she could merely be mistaken, and again she could also defeat this element by claiming that its her opinion.

I believe you can follow the same analysis regarding whatever utterance your landlady claims you made.

I hope this helps, good luck to you.

Morgan Smith
SMITH & RAVER LLP
Minneapolis, Minnesota
http://smith-and-raver-llp.biz
Conciliation Court * Civil Litigation * Forfeitures * Construction * Family Law

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: The landlady claims that we said about her son's father law this: he said you would try to make money out of us. But the only people present were myself, my wife and her and even if anything of this nature was said then according to what you say we could argue that it was just opinion. We did not broadcast any message to a third party. Am I right in my understanding here?

ANSWER: Hello again j,

The same conditions of my original response apply to this follow up.

The statement "you would try to make money out of us" is hardly defamatory, likely opinion and unlikely to satisfy a defamation proceeding, regardless of the publication deficiency that you observe.

I hope this helps, good luck to you.

Morgan Smith
SMITH & RAVER LLP
Minneapolis, Minnesota
http://smith-and-raver-llp.biz
Conciliation Court * Civil Litigation * Forfeitures * Construction * Family Law



---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Morgan,

What is usually considered enough to satisfy and start a defamatory proceeding?

Answer
Hello again j,

The same conditions of my original response apply to this follow up.

Sufficient facts for what we call a prima facie case are those that satisfy ALL of the elements of the cause of action.  The path to victory is to prove each by a preponderance of the evidence, that means more likely than not as reckoned as true by the fact finder.  Of course, a triumphant plaintiff must also overcome any defense mustered by the defense.  I leave it to you and your attorney to determine whether what you've got is enough to start a non-frivolous claim, and whether your evidence is sufficient.


I hope this helps, good luck to you.

Morgan Smith
SMITH & RAVER LLP
Minneapolis, Minnesota
http://smith-and-raver-llp.biz
Conciliation Court * Civil Litigation * Forfeitures * Construction * Family Law

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Morgan Smith

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Civil litigation (contract claims, landlord-tenant actions, forfeiture suits, residential construction defect matters), Family law (divorce, custody modifications, child support modifications, and pre-nuptial agreement), new business start-ups, civil forfeiture, asset forfeiture. Please do not submit your question as Private. It is my policy not to answer Private questions from members of the public here on AllExperts; I reserve that function to my private clients. Although AllExperts permits me to change your questions from Private to Public, it is my policy not to do that. I encourage you to resubmit your question as a public question. Your public question has the potential to help others with similar concerns. I suggest that you use a pretend name and otherwise alter sensitive facts that make you inclined to treat your question as Private, and submit your question to me Publicly.

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I've been practicing law in the State of Minnesota since 1995. I've worked in skyscraper firms, and now my own small firm in Minneapolis. Past answers from my earlier participation on AllExperts is posted at: http://en.allexperts.com/q/Civil-Commercial-Litigation-911/indexExp_80217.htm

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AllExperts, Yahoo Answers, http://smith-and-raver-llp.biz/News.html

Education/Credentials
J.D. William Mitchell College of Law, St Paul, MN

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