When should a person take a threat of a lawsuit seriously?

A friend of mine is the administrator of a poetry message board that is affiliated with a nonprofit poetry organization.

The board has only two rules: One is essentially the same as the Dope’s rule “Don’t be a jerk.” The second is that all posters have to register under their own names.

A kid comes to the board, registers under a false name, trolls until he’s kicked off, and then the admin discovered that it was a false name.

The kid’s father claims to be a divorce lawyer and he says he’s going to sue the board and the admin personally for age discrimination and, I guess, general meanness, for a million dollars.

Now, she told me about it and I laughed. A lot. To me, it sounded completely ludicrous. But I am not a lawyer. He says he is.

With something like this, is there any sort of rule of thumb for when to consult a lawyer? Most of us can’t just run to a lawyer every time some dumbass on the internet starts to shriek, but most of us also can’t afford to get sued.

General insights or ones specific to this particular incident gratefully appreciated.
Edited to add: I’m calling him a kid. He’s 17. Man, I’m getting old. :smiley:

I’d say see a lawyer when the lawsuit gets filed. Until then it’s a bluff.

Agreed. You take it seriously when you get served. And even then, you only have to take it seriously long enough to pronounce “motion to dismiss.”

Lie. We had a similiar situation happen at the message board I’m part of. You didn’t make up the rule, the owner of the message board (ezboard, vbulletin, etc.)did. When this person signed up for the message board they had to check the little boxes, then click “I accept” to join the board. The person isn’t a lawyer or they’d know how stupid this is. Tell him to sue you, it might be fun.

We had a crackpot troll that got banned. She faked her death- one of my favorites, and then her “lawyer” started posting and threatened to sue. This one was easy to spot, they had the same ISP and had their avatars hosted under the same photobucket account. Not one of the better well thought out plans.

Uhh since when can a privately owned website be sued for anything like that? I know when I administered websites I regularly banned people for being irritating and laughed off any such legal threats. My website wasn’t a government-operation nor was it even similar to a business and I did as I pleased to keep it running…

This board is a private one, not on any of those servers. Before registering (I just clicked on “register” to find out), it says, “Members post under their own names. We do not permit internet aliases. Therefore, we cannot accept email accounts like AOL, Yahoo or Hotmail that allow multiple identities.”

There’s a big honkin’ disclaimer and guidelines but they don’t require a “I have read the terms of service” or anything.

I don’t know, which is why I had to ask.

I don’t know if being affiliated with a nonprofit makes any difference. I don’t know if the disclaimers make any difference.

If I were my friend, I’d just keep laughing. But she’s more thoughtful than I am. :smiley:

The best responses I’ve seen to legal threats are those done by SomethingAwful.com and their resident attorney, Leonard “J.” Crabs. They’ve changed their site around a bit, but I finally found their threat archive here. They’re entertaining reading.

Lesson: people who threaten to sue over internet disagreements are invariably full of hot air.

An anonymous “claim” from cyberspace doesn’t seem like anything to get worried about. If you get a written, signed document from a specific individual with a verifiable address, then maybe it’s serious.

Also, I am no lawyer, but I think that the dollar amount a person sues for has to have a reasonable explanation–reimbursement for damages caused, etc. If your web site caused the poster specific damages, (maybe lost income due to copyright infringement) then there could be a reasonable calculation of a dollar amount. But “a million” dollars is a little too vague-- I think a real lawyer would be smart enough either to back up his claims with factual calculations, or not to make a spurious claim that he might later have trouble justifying.

Oops, I lied. He’s saying he’s going to sue for $800,000 if he and his son aren’t allowed to post on the message board.

The guy apparently is a lawyer. His name and email seem to match up to a real lawyer.

I bet the kid’s “father” is actually the kid himself.

“Hey, you guys. This is [del]my dad[/del] Trollboy’s father and guess what, I’m a lawyer. Yeah, a big DIVORCE lawyer. I’m gonna sue for for a MILLION DOLLARS. Yeah, that’s the ticket.”

Good for a chuckle anyway.

How do you know that? How hard would it be to spoof a “lawyer’s” email address?

She did a search for lawyers in Denver and found a divorce lawyer by this name. The contact info he had gave the same email address he’s writing to her from.

Not complete proof, obviously.

Good luck to him. It’s generally not illegal to discriminate against young people, only old people (in some cases). The only case I can think of is the states that forced car rental companies to rent to anyone 18 or over, but even then, that was a special case law, not a general principle, the limit is still 18, and they aren’t prohibited from charging an extra fee for younger renters.

I find it hard to believe that a “non profit poetry organization” has any significant assets. You are (very likely) “judgement proof”. No one would bother suing you.

Well, if the threatened suit had any merit, that would be a worry. Presumably the organisation is not incorporated. That means that the person could sue the officers of the organisation personally, and take their personal assets.

However, IANAL, but the threatened suit is ridiculous. The organisation has two simple rules, and the kid has broken both by trolling anonymously. To ban the kid is not unfair discrimination in any way.

I’d be tempted to write back with a threat to countersue foir an equal amount for the abuse done by the kid to the organisation, and the failure on the part of the parents toi control the kid.

Age discrimination refers only to people over a certain age who are denied employment strictly based on age.

Unless some state has some obscure kiddie’s law. :dubious:

I wonder if the kid accessed his father’s email account. It seems like incredibly immature behavior from an adult (and an attorney at that).

I don’t think there are any assets at all really.

According to their website, they’ve been incorporated as a not-for-profit since 2001.

You don’t hang around poetry groups, obviously. :smiley:

I’ve seen some behavior from presumed poets that would make Jerry Springer cringe. I’ve seen death threats (been the recipient of same), suicide threats, suicide claims, plagiarism, false accusations of plagiarism, outright and acknowledged poetry theft, screaming, tantrums, threats of legal action, threats of police, threats of FBI, hacking, trolling, libel, slander, character assassination, and everything else you can think of. People are so vicious because the stakes are so small.