threatening lawsuit gets you in trouble?

Hi all

I am not you client…you are not my lawyer…legal blah blah blah…

Lets assume I have a beef with someone. Its time to get paid and/or hit the court system.

Lets also assume that I do NOT have a history of running around sueing people or harassing my “target” in general. Lets also assume that I am not making up anything or lying in court or otherwise.

Can you get in trouble for harrassement/extortion/blackmail/something bad for threatening to sue someone?

Lets address what I THINK may be the easier aspect first. I threaten to sue for XYZ dollars. I tell the “target” “you know, if you pay me XYZ because you did ABC to me, I won’t sue you”. Would it make any difference (in terms of me getting in trouble with the man) if I actually filed the suit before taking XYZ dollars (or even making the “threat” in the first place). Or can we just exchange words without any legal paperwork being started with me maybe getting my XYZ dollars with the same legal risk (or no risk) to me?

The other part, does WHAT I am sueing for make any real difference?

On one end, I can see a situation like this. You got pissed because you hate Auburn and my Auburn football team kicked your guys ass last weekend so you burned my brand new car (with Auburn stickers) to the ground. It was worth exactly 20K, so if you give me 20k, I’ll be happy, none the worse for wear, and you wont have to go to jail or court.

On the other end of the spectrum, I tell my elderly and somewhat senile neighbor “You know, having pink curtains is against the homeowners association rules and they could throw you in jail for that. Sign over the title of your house to me and I won’t tell them about it”.

The first seems pretty damn legit to me. The other certainly seems IMHO to be somekind of bad thing that would rightly get me in trouble.

Then there appears to be a middle ground to me. Lets say I have reason to believe you are running around telling folks I diddle little kiddies, or drown kittens for kicks, or shoot baby fur seals for fun and profit. So, IMO and point of view I am definitely being libeled/slandered? and am not particularly happy about it. Seems like a legitimate beef. Yet, how “much” thats worth legal compensation wise seems pretty damn vague. I can’t really imagine asking for a few hundred and a promise (perhaps a legal document) to knock it off getting me in big trouble. On the other hand, asking for everything you have of value, with you ending up in the street destitute as a resulf just “feels” like something that would get me in trouble.

Of course I am sure there are a gazillion aspects I havent considered or outlined here.

In the area of debt collection its pretty standard practice to send a very scary looking official letter that threatens legal action to retreive the debt, even if the debt in question is not going to court any time soon.

Its also something that is recommended in serious consumer disputes, an offical looking letter that implies legal action is pending can do far more that a thousand irate phone calls to customer service.

INAL but I think the only time it would be legally dodgy (unless you sending out two a day to the same place, in which case it could be harrasment), is if the language of the letter itself crosses the line into outright blackmail. I’d be interested to know where that line is.

There’s a point when something stops being legitimate and starts to become harassment. Even the police are subject to this. For instance, though it varies by location the police can arrest you and hold you for a period of time. Let’s say in your area it’s 48 hours. So they arrest you and then after 48 hours they either charge or release you. Obviously if they keep arresting you, then releasing you and never charging you, that’s harrassment.

But how many times they do this, well that’s a matter for a judge to decide. Judges use what the average person would think, in determination. Obviously the same act could vary from judge to judge on whether or not it’s harrassment.

Saying your statement once would most likely not be harrassment. How many times is again, up to a judge.

Remember the Supreme Court has always protected opinion. If I say “Joe steal from his company” that is potentially libelous. If I say “Joe is a jerk,” that isn’t. Why? Because that’s clearly an opinion.

From credit collectors to your boss harassment is defined basically by a judge or now-a-days a set of lawyers who estimate what it costs to go to court versus what it costs to pay out. For instance when I was in H/R we had harrassment complaints, under $10,000 was covered by insurance, so if you complained and had even a half assed case if you asked for $10,000 minus of course insurance fees, plus your lawyer fees. If you went for more, they fought and they always won when they fought.