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,
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,
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
Clarification of Answer by
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
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.