I’m planning to write a letter of complaint to a service company that I use. The complaint relates to the actions of one of their sub-contractors. I’m concerned that the sub-contractor might threaten me with libel, or even sue me. Could this happen?
Alasdair Taylor's Answer
This sort of question isn’t really answerable, without a lot more information. To make even an preliminary assessment of the risks, a lawyer would need answers to these questions.
- What are the nature of the relationships between you, the sub-contractor and the main contractor?
- What did the sub-contractor do?
- What evidence do you have to support this?
- What do you plan to write in the letter?
Clearly, there may be a risk, inasmuch as you are planning to send a critical publication to another person. To assess whether that criticism carries with it a defamatory imputation, a lawyer would need to see the statement and understand the context in which the statement is being made. If the statement amounts to a defamatory publication, a defence might be available. For instance, the defence of “justification” applies where a defamatory statement of fact is true, and can be proven to be true. Similarly, the defence of “fair comment” may apply to a reasonably opinion based on facts that are true.
There is also, of course, the practical question of whether the sub-contractor is the kind of person/organisation that would make this sort of complaint.
In summary, speak to your solicitor.