Allen’s Answers

You Can’t Say That. Really!

  • August 4, 2017
  • LawCall
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I see people clutching the First Amendment thinking they can say anything they want. Well, you can’t.

This has become more of a problem with the explosion of social media. People will just comment on something whether they know anything about it or not. Though rare, it can get you into real legal trouble. In at least one case, a restaurant sued a diner who gave it only one star.

A lawsuit for slander (spoken) or libel (written) communication can cost thousands of dollars and last for years.

If you are suing, generally you have to prove that the statement was false and you were harmed in some way. In my experience, most people claim their reputation was damaged or they suffered from not being able to find work.

If you are being sued, the classic defense is what you said was the truth. But be careful, you can tell everyone that your ex was arrested for public nudity (if he or she was) but that doesn’t mean you should. Defending a lawsuit you win can still cost you plenty in time and expenses.

Here are some other things not to say:

You can’t yell “fire” in a theatre if no fire exists. This can cause panic and is exempt from free speech.

You cannot incite another to perform a crime. So, watch out by saying, “Let’s burn that car.”

You cannot advocate the violent overthrow of the government. Really, no matter what you think about the political landscape, they will cart you away and lock you up for this one.

My general rule is that everybody does not need to know your business. Sometimes it is good to just shut-up.

If you have questions especially about injury law, you can talk with the lawyers at Eiland and Ritchie for free. There is no cost until we collect for you. We want to help you get back on your feet.

Allen Ritchie

Personal Injury Attorney

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