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Q: My sister is saying I'm insane. Is this Libel? How should I stop it? ( Answered,   1 Comment )
Subject: My sister is saying I'm insane. Is this Libel? How should I stop it?
Category: Relationships and Society > Law
Asked by: lajohnnyb-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 16 Jun 2006 16:49 PDT
Expires: 16 Jul 2006 16:49 PDT
Question ID: 738818
My own sister is telling other people that I am "insane", "abusive"
and "mentally ill" and saying that psychiatrists, a mediator and her
friends hold the same opinion.  She also states that these
psychiatrists say that I "will probably try to hurt {her} or trap
{her}".  All of this is completely untrue.  I am of completely sound
mind, never violent, a fully functioning member of society, have no
criminal record, nor history of any mental illness whatsoever.

I want to stop her from spreading these rumors, especially to my
friends, to my elderly mother, and to the nurses and caregivers who
look after her.   How do I go about it?  Do I need a lawyer, or can I
handle it myself?  Is there a book or website where I can get a free
template for a cease and desist letter?  The written evidence that I
have is an email she sent to a friend of mine.

I live in Los Angeles, as does my friend who received the defamatory
email.  My sister owns a home in Missoula, Montana but has just
recently relocated to Portland, Oregon.
Subject: Re: My sister is saying I'm insane. Is this Libel? How should I stop it?
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 16 Jun 2006 19:08 PDT

There are many ways to try and deal with a difficult situation like
this, ranging from ignoring it, to engaging the services of a lawyer.

Ignoring the situation is certainly an option to consider, though you
sound as if you're past that point already.

If you haven't communicated with your sister about your concerns, you
may certainly want to consider that as a next step, either in a face
to face conversation, over the phone, or in a letter (non-legalistic,
for starters).

However, if you wish to go straight to a cease-and-desist letter, that
is certainly an option.  Anyone can send such a letterl, although they
generally have the appearance of carrying more weight if they come
from a law firm.

By the way, this is good time to note the disclaimer at the page
bottom -- I am not a lawyer, and Google Answers is certainly no
substitute for professional legal assistance.

Here's a good example of what a C&D letter looks like:
defamation and invasion of privacy in communications re sender

Note that there's a good Q&A at the bottom of the letter, including discussions of:

--What is malice? 

--What is defamation? 

--What are the elements of a defamation claim? 

--What defenses may be available to someone who is sued for defamation? 

and so on.

The letter itself is from a very useful database that is full of
examples of C&D letters.  You can search the database here:

Set the search parameters for [ Subject is Defamation ] and you'll get
a slew of C&D letters to look over.

You can also set the parameters for other search terms (e.g. libel) to
see what turns up.

Another resource that may be worth checking into is an online book,
Fighting Slander:

Althoug I haven't read the book myself, it has a good reputation.  

I trust this information should help you, should you decide to go the
C&D route.  However, if there's anything more I can do for you, just
let me know by posting a Request for Clarification, and I'm at your

All the best in resolving this unpleasant situation.


search strategy -- personal knowledge, and bookmarked sites for C&D letters

Request for Answer Clarification by lajohnnyb-ga on 16 Jun 2006 21:12 PDT
Thank you for your answer which was helpful and will get me started.  

I will use the example letter you directed me to as a template, but I
need specific information about how the letter should be worded for
this particular issue which relates to the statutes and laws of the
States of California and Oregon, not Massachusetts.  Would you please
clarify this for me?

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 17 Jun 2006 05:58 PDT

Although there are certainly differences between defamation laws in
different states, there are many common features to libel claims
anywhere in the country.

First and foremost, the statements made must be false and hurtful.  

In general, a court action would need to also show that the libel
caused you damage -- for instance, you lost your job because of the
claims made about your mental health.  Also, it helps to establish a
history of having requested the libelous statements to stop, but
without success.

A good overview of defamation law -- applicable in all states -- is
provided by my colleauge, expertlaw, at this link:
Defamation: Libel and Slander Law

and he also has a detailed description of the relevant law in California, here:
Defamation of Character/Slander

For the sake of your letter, though, I wouldn't get too focused on the
specifics of state laws (particularly for a case involving multiple
states, as does yours).

Instead, focus on including the following elements:

--A clear request to stop making defamatory statements about you

--A clear statement of what has been said/written about you thus far
that you consider defamatory

--An clear insistence that these statements are untrue and have no basis in fact

--A factual accounting of how widespread the statements have
been...where and how often and to whom the defamatory remarks were

--You can ask for a retraction or an apology, if you deem that
appropriate, though you may want to content yourself with simply
putting a stop to further statements.

If you're inclined, you can also make mention of your intent to bring
the matter to court if the statements do not cease, and the
possibility of seeking damages and/or a legal injunction regarding the

However, I wouldn't suggest citing specific statutes at this point. 
The case you described is jurisdictionally complex, with you in
California, your sister in Oregon, and the libelous statements,
apparently, occuring in several locations, including Montana.

It would take a lawyer familiar with libel claims to sort all that out
(and probably take a court to decide the actual jurisdiction).

For starters, a legal-sounding letter that addresses the above points
could possibly be an effective start.

Let me know if there's anything more you need on this.  

Subject: Re: My sister is saying I'm insane. Is this Libel? How should I stop it?
From: frde-ga on 17 Jun 2006 02:36 PDT
You have a very difficult problem.

Either your sister is malevolent and manipulative
- or she is mentally unstable

Put crudely, she is smart and evil, or she is thick and insane.

If she is smart, then she will distort anything you try to do, and
attempt to make it bolster her case.

If she is thick, then she'll just carry on regardless.

Personally I think that your best course of action is to quietly
collect any evidence (in case things get out of hand) and try to
appear calm and reasonable.

You probably don't have a problem with your own friends, your mother's
nurses and carers are almost certainly used to peculiar behaviour,
both from their patients and those around them.

I dislike saying this, but if your elderly mother is likely to believe
your sister, then your safest course of action is to stay well away
from both of them.

Here I speak from experience, my sister in law has somehow planted
ideas in my elderly mother's mind, so that she actually believes that
she witnessed me behaving atrociously - quite literally a
false/distorted memory.
Some people believe what they want to believe, any argument just
reinforces their 'belief'.

If your mother is sufficiently weak minded to fall for your sister's
lies, then you have had it. It is not easy, but the more you get
involved with unpleasant people, the worse things get.

Am I correct in guessing that the your sister's root motive is financial ?

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