We’ve received a letter about a school teacher who is currently under attack by a member of her own community. The attacks began after she dedicated countless hours trying to raise support for the funding needed to get new school books. We were asked, “what can be done about these emails?” Our first question was, “did the libel take place in an emailed newsletter, or, was it in private emails?” The concerned party shared, “private emails.” We then asked, “can she get printed copies of those emails?” The response was, “Yes.”
While we have yet to see the emails with our own eyes, we do know for sure that the targeted teacher is feeling defamed by the malicious email correspondences sent to an assortment of potentially influential people in his community. The remaining question is, could the right attorney help her? We believe one might be able to assist her if the conditions for libel are met because. . . unbeknownst to most, emails can indeed be defamatory.
Any written communication to third parties containing false statements about an individual that is injurious and designed to damage the reputation of the targeted individual can be considered defamatory if it deters others from doing business or associating with that person. Since defamation requires a form of publication, a libelous email sent to one or more individuals meets that requirement.
Even if the person now writing the libelous emails happens to catch on to concerns about their nefarious electronic activity and elects to delete the defamatory emails, he or she will not be immune from the consequences of legal action.
If you find yourself in a similar situation with someone defaming you by way of email, ask yourself, “does the contents of the offending email contain opinions, or, can one or more false statements of fact be found?” Statements of opinion have not historically formed the basis of a defamation claim, however, if a statement implies a false fact, the contents of the email can be considered libelous. For example, if the email author wrote, “in my opinion, Jimmy Bean stole all of the money that was raised,” then the mad emailer will lose their opinion protection.
False statements expose email authors to legal jeopardy.
The facts within this report have been changed to protect the privacy of those both concerned and involved. This editorial commentary is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult with an attorney if you have been the victim of email libel and defamation.