Can I be sued for defamation per se for the non-literal use of a word which denotes a serious crime if used literally?
June 9, 2014
I entrusted a friend to watch after my pets (I have a rabbit, fish and a cat). I was to be out of the country for over a month. When I came back, I found that my friend neglected watching over the pets and they all had died. I sent an email to many of our mutual contacts, friends and business alike, telling them what had happened and stated that he had "murdered" my pets by neglecting them. (I was very upset, not thinking straight) He found out about the email and is now suing me for defamation per se claiming I tended to injure his business, trade and reputation and that he had lost business income and suffered emotional distress.
I claim that by putting quotes around the word "murdered" I was using it in a non-literal way to denote so-called.
Do you think I have a defense?
If he's already served you with papers, and you have an upcoming court date, you'll have an opportunity to tell your side of the case - hopefully, you'll get a judge that likes animals (and who doesn't). This "friend" caused undue suffering to a cat, a rabbit and a fish by starving them to death. You could report this guy for animal cruelty. If you think you're going to need a lawyer, tell the judge (or the judge will tell you). Personally, I think this "friend" has a lot of nerve, and you can make the legal argument it was non-literal, but trust me, no judge is going to like what this guy did.
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