Legal Dopers, do you think I could really get sued for this???

A little background info here.

A guy opened a 2nd magic shop in Colon, MI called FAB Magic. FAB held a number of events during Abbott’s Magic Get-Together this year, including some magic contests. FYI, there is a lot of heated feelings going around about FAB Magic and there are many who have the opinion that FAB is there to steal Abbott’s thunder, but that is a completely different issue. I bring it up because the controversy is relevant to what recently happened to me.

Anyways, a rumor started circulating around the convention that the guy who won the close-up contest was promised some sort of a prize for taking 1st place, but was never paid said prize. I did not start this rumor, I just heard it.

I belong to The Magic Cafe Forums. On that board, I started this thread asking what was going on with that rumor. FAB magic’s response is also there, and for me, it cleared up what I had heard.

A few days later, I got the following in a personal message from FAB (Names and contact have been changed):

Granted, my posting in that thread may have been curt, but I feel I asked a fair question there, and FAB Magic answered it.

What I am wondering is if this guy really does have the legal right to sue me for asking about a rumor? After he cleared it up on that thread, I never gave it a 2nd thought, then WHAMMO, this theat comes in. So do you think this guy could really do anything?

He wants to know who you heard it from. It doesn’t sound like he thinks YOU started it. I wouldn’t worry. And I also wouldn’t respond to him.

If Mr. Smith wants to take a disposition, Mr. Smith can send you a subpoena or certified letter or whatever, instead of going through a second party.

IANAL, etc.

The classic answer is you can be sued by just about anyone for just about anything. How successful such a suit would be is another matter.

Your post could be considered defamation. You’re making a statement that may have the effect of adversely affecting the reputation of the store and/or the owner.

Is it likely that your alleged defamatory statements would cause the store or the owner to suffer damages substantial enough to warrant a lawsuit? No way for me to know. It’s certainly possible that a reasonable person reading your post could decide that the owner is dishonest and refuse to do business with him. Your post goes beyond “asking about a rumor.” It states the rumor, thus spreading it.

The follow up post by the business owner was probably made for the purpose of mitigation. He has a duty to mitigate, or minimize, the potential damage the alleged defamation can cause.

Were I in your position, I would take no action until I received a subpoena or summons and complaint and then I’d speak with a lawyer about what to do next. Keep a copy of your post and the response along with the later response asking you to submit to questioning. I’d also ask the mods here to edit your post to remove the link to the offending thread on the other board because by linking it you’re spreading the rumor further thus compounding the alleged defamation.

In future if you have a question about a rumor, contact the subject of the rumor directly.

I agree, don’t call him back. I don’t think you are in any danger, either. I’m a law student, so I’m not sure about this, but I think that FAB must show a material loss along with proof that you are maliciously starting a rumor. I doubt that they can do either. I think they are trying to scare you and keep you from talking about the rumor to others. Don’t sweat it.

If I’m wrong here, more experienced Dopers will be along shortly to correct me.

That paragraph proves that whoever posted it doesn’t know a thing about the legal process and obviously has no idea what a deposition actually is.

Further, attorneys who do need to take a deposition don’t post orders on a message board for the other party – which doesn’t exist in this case anyway, since there is no “case”; therefore, there is no other party - to arrange one.

I’d have a good laugh and ignore it. Or call them on their ignorance, if you think you can have fun with it.

The owner doesn’t have to prove malice unless he is considered a “public figure” under the law. Private figures need only prove negligence.

That is just a stupid scare tactic. As others have said, don’t do anything. If they really do want to pursue a case then they will contact you. However, that is never going to happen.

The thing that makes you completely safe IMHNLSO (in my humble no-lawyer-self opinion) is that you that you stated that you “heard” this information. That is a fact, not a defamation. You weren’t spreading it, just asking anyone for more information.

I certainly wouldn’t lose even 1 millisecond of sleep over it if I were you.

My personal feelings aside, I really wanted to hear what FAB had to say about it and get the facts. My thanks to everyone here for your thoughts on this. This is why the SDMB is IMHO, the greatest board I’ve ever been on.

“I heard that Shagnasty stole $25,000 from his last employer and used the money to pay off his gambling debts and his drug dealer, can anyone tell me the truth about that?”

Making defamatory statements under the color of “rumor” doesn’t excuse the defamation.