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Ash
Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10916
Experience:  Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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(uk question) I am a sole trader 600k t/o and have been told

Resolved Question:

(uk question)
I am a sole trader 600k t/o and have been told that I am being sued for defaming a £15m turnover company's reputation. This happened in feb this year when they (a competitor of ours) poached our top 5 staff to set up a regional office. The staff left with no notice, some taking prospect sheets etc. We called the police to try and recover our property.
Subsequently one of the new staff was bragging about working on a special project they had to close us.
They then started to call our clients telling them that we were in trouble - it was a mess.
In order to stop the rot, I wrote a two letter to explain what had happened. Page one was an opinion based on the (true) facts contained on page two.
The company, who have just been featured on BBC's watchdog sent me a huge letter detailing how we had ruined the North East market for them (they est it was worth £1m).
Looking at the letter months later, yes they may have a case, but the facts quoted were true and they have systematically migrated my customers onto their service.
After some months of discussions, the owner of the company has given me an ultimatum to sign an apology and retraction, to be circulated to all my customers, in which I admin that every true point I made was not true, they are really a great company, and pay £7k legal expenses, or they will sue for £100k +costs and that this is not negotiable.
I can't afford to go to court.
my questions are:
1. I am happy to agree the terms if the document represented the truth, but is it not wrong to 'force ' me to sign an untrue document?
2. If they go ahead, am I entitled to publish all of the communication they have sent me as it shows two months ago they wanted £25k plus £14k costs plus a retraction and he has instructed his legal team to proceed
Just a week ago all he emailed to say the documents had been posted and all he had wanted was an apology and legal costs of £7k.
I suggested that if that was the case he should hold back and see if we can resolve this without going to court and this week the papers are now 'on his desk', 'franked', and he wants agreement for 7K plus this letter before midday tomorrow.
thanks
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ash replied 2 years ago.
Alex Watts :

Hello my name is ***** ***** I will help you with this.

Alex Watts :

Can you substantiate everything you have said? Is anything untrue?

Customer:

The facts I quoted in my letter were all true. I made a few deductions from them e.g. they had said that the new company was going to put mine out of business, and as I run a membership organisation with annual paid ( in advance) subs, if their mission was to put me out of business then clearly they did not care about my tradesmen's investment and I said so.

Customer:

but the facts they are wanting me to deny are all true.

Alex Watts :

1. Yes if its true its wrong to get you to sign this docunebt

Alex Watts :

* document *

Alex Watts :

2. Yes you can publish anything unless they have an injunction to stop you

Customer:

ok but they have told me essentially that if I don't sign they are taking me to court - which they know I can't afford.

Customer:

I will have to defend myself

Alex Watts :

Yes unless you can afford a lawyer.

Customer:

money is no object to them

Alex Watts :

The cost would be about £15,000 in costs I would think

Alex Watts :

Can I clarify anything else about your question today please?

Customer:

so it appears the only option I have is to let them publish that I lied and pay the 7K?

Customer:

as if i loose I will have their legals and whatever the judge orders

Alex Watts :

Yes you would have to pay their legals, but any costs order would be subject to assessment - they must be reasonable and proportionate

Customer:

reasonable and proportioate to what though?

Alex Watts :

The Court would decide whether the time spent on the case, prep etc was reasonable

Customer:

I sent this letter t osme 800 members - a lot of whome subsequentl;y joined them anyway (and stayd with me) so I can't see how I have damagd them..

Customer:

ok you are not talking about their claim

Customer:

they are saying that they are going for 100k in damages

Alex Watts :

The Judge would have to assess that. But they can ONLY claim that if what you have said is untrue and they have suffered serious harm

Customer:

is that serious financial harm? as that would be very hard to prove

Alex Watts :

Indeed it would. The law changed to make it harder

Customer:

so do they have to prove financial loss in a case of defamation?

Alex Watts :

They have to show they have suffered serious harm and as a result they suffered a loss. Ie customers leaving because of what was said

Alex Watts :

But that assumes what was said is not true

Customer:

they are arguing that cusomers are not joining them fast enough

Customer:

'growth is a lot slower than expected'

Customer:

it is a new regional office expansion

Alex Watts :

That does not mean anything. We have been in a recession

Customer:

so you think that they might not be able to prove a loss even if they can establish that the letter was defamatory

Alex Watts :

That is correct

Customer:

and if that can't prove a loss they would win and I would just pay leagals?

Alex Watts :

No. If they can't prove it was false OR loss then you would win and you would not have to pay anything

Alex Watts :

They would have to pay your legals, if any

Alex Watts :

Does that help?

Customer:

ok Alex, it's the commentry I put around the facts that is the issue. Each of the facts is true, but the document when viewed as a whole, demines them (they argue). I would guess it's 60:40 to them on that one.
It is probably worth representing myself it if they can't prove a loss

Alex Watts :

Yes if they can't prove loss you can represent yourself, but if it goes to trial I would encourage legal representation

Customer:

Is it possible to self represent? - If I lost that would make the cost £30k + court fees and they will bring in barrasters

Alex Watts :

Yes it is possible to self represent.

Customer:

ok alex - thank you very much.

Alex Watts :

Can I clarify anything else for you?

Customer:

just one thing, how long will it take them to get this to court?

Alex Watts :

It can take around 6 months or so

Customer:

ok thx bye:)

Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10916
Experience: Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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