Gossip and Slander : Part 4

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Q: My landlord, call him Landon, is suing me for slander.  Trouble has been brewing ever since I helped organize opposition to his application for a rent increase.  This acrimonious situation has continued and even gotten worse as the building became a co-op.  Before the suit, his wife even filed a criminal complaint against me, causing me to spend the night in jail.

 The landlord says that I asked another tenant, Tommy, to find out from his “friend at the precinct which cop is on the take” from the landlord.  Supposedly, I continued, “There is a cop on the take from Landon.  That’s why none of the building’s cars ever get tickets: they can park anywhere because he’s paid them off.  He gives them a hundred or two hundred a week.”

Supposedly, I also told some employees, “Landon threw a punch at me.  He screamed at my wife and daughter.  He threatened to kill us.”

The landlord also says that one time I threw a lit firecracker into his car and another time I pounded on the car’s windows and attempted to rip out the windshield wiper.

A: Every person has a ‘common interest qualified privilege’.  Your lawyer will attempt to characterize the conversation with Tommy regarding the police as merely an inquiry designed to uncover wrongdoing by the landlord affecting tenants.  Because bribery is a serious crime, that privilege is useful in order to block this action from going to a jury.

On the other hand, accusing the landlord of threatening you is not accusing him of a serious crime.  In New York, harassment is a relatively minor offense.  The harm to the reputation of a person falsely accused of committing harassment is presumed to be relatively minor.

The allegations about the landlord’s car appear to designed to show that you had ‘malice’: your lawyer will need all the details.  So, too, regarding your night in jail.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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