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TJ, Esq.
TJ, Esq., Attorney
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Experience:  JD, MBA
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Can I sue for emotional distress and financial distress, defamation

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Can I sue for emotional distress and financial distress, defamation of character,and slander
Here's my story, I live in conn. and my brother lived in il., last year he died in April 2012

Before he died we discussed what was to become of the family dog, I offered to take it but he said if there's a problem there should be enough family in Chicago to take it. Well six months later I was told I couldn't have the dog to take care of it ( my sister in law does not like me or my husband or our children) well to my horror she didn't ask any family members if they wanted the dog and she dropped it off at a dog pound. Well I was horrified and closed my business early on a sat and drove 1000 miles all night to this dog pound and had to pay to get her out and drove back 1000, all night again to arrive home to hurricane sandy on mon, the stress was off the charts, the money for gas, tolls, paying for the dog, lost income from closing my business,. Well six months after that in April of 2013 I get a call from a detective in il stating that my sister law swore out a statement that I came to her house in nov of 2012 and stole from her, she was having work done at her home and said a worker can identify me, so I told the detective to please show my picture around to prove it was not me, so I hired an il lawyer over the phone and nothing became of the case, this detective threatened to have warrant for my arrest, that's when I hired the lawyer, again the stress is off the charts, not to mention the lawyers fees, well I just found out that on Facebook my sister in law is telling everybody this lie and people are responding with comments like "kill her" "that crazy bitch" "send her to hell" and on and on, I have screen shots of this stuff on face book. Family and friends are seeing this and it causing problems all over the place, my stress level is beyond words, I live in sandy hook ct and don't need this bullshit we are still dealing with the tragedy. I want to sue to teach this woman a lesson
Hello and thank you for allowing me the opportunity to assist you.

Based on what you wrote, you could sue the sister-in-law (SIL) for defamation of character. In order to win a lawsuit for defamation of character, you must prove that your SIL made a false statement about you to a third party, and that your reputation was damaged as a result. In this case, it appears that is exactly what happened. Your SIL made false statements about you stealing things to the people on Facebook, and now people believe that you are a criminal. If you prove those facts, then you should be able to win a lawsuit. You'll need to sue in Illinois where your SIL lives, so you should retain a local attorney there. I'll warn you that you'll have to pay for the attorney out of your own pocket, however, and it is unlikely that an attorney would take this type of case on a contingency fee basis.

Slander is a type of defamation of character, so if slander occurred, it would be covered in the above mentioned lawsuit. Slander is oral defamation of character. Libel is written defamation of character. Posting the lies on Facebook would be libel, but it's possible that she committed slander as well (though speaking to police is generally immune from defamation of character, so talking to the detective would not likely count). However, filing a false police report is a crime, so you can complain about that to the police, who may take action against your SIL if there is evidence to support the fact that she lied. You can also sue her for abuse of process, which occurs when somebody abuses the legal system. In this case, it's a long shot since you weren't actually charged with a crime, but you can theoretically sue for that as well.

Unfortunately, you would not likely win a lawsuit for emotional distress. In order to win that type of lawsuit, you'd have to prove that your SIL's conduct was "extreme and outrageous," and that you suffered "severe emotional distress." Extreme and outrageous conduct is conduct that is heinous and beyond the standards of civilized decency or utterly intolerable in a civilized society. While your SIL's conduct is horrible, I'm not sure that it would fall into that category. Also, severe emotional distress means that the emotional distress was accompanied by physical symptoms that can be documented by a physician. You haven't mentioned anything like that, so I'm assuming that is not an issue.

Unfortunately, there is no cause of action for financial distress. In order to win any money to reimburse you for traveling, you'd need to prove that she owed you a legal duty to prevent that travel somehow. Nothing you've stated indicates that such a legal duty existed.

In sum, if you want to sue, it sounds like your best legal strategy is to sue for defamation of character. You should contact an attorney in the county where your SIL resides.

Does that answer your question? Please let me know if you need clarification, as I am happy to continue helping you until you are satisfied. Also, your positive feedback is much appreciated. Thank you for using our service!

If you would like to direct additional legal questions to me in the future, then please type "To VAMD" in the subject line of your question.
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Thank you very much for your information, it was very helpful and easy to understand, could you possibly give me an estimation for what a defamation of character lawsuit would cost in approximation? Thank you very much
Hi again. I'm glad to be of help.

It's difficult to throw out estimates for lawsuits because they can vary by quite a bit due to unknown factors. For example, you could sue your SIL, and she may ignore the lawsuit, and you could win a default judgment. If that were to occur, you may only end up paying $1500 in attorney fees. On the other hand, your SIL could defend herself, and in doing so have depositions, interrogatories, admissions, a countersuit, etc. The case could blow up into something much larger than you anticipated, and it could cost you $20,000 in attorney fees. But assuming your SIL defends herself and there is a trial, but it's a simple case without depositions, etc., then my guess is that attorney fees would be in the realm of $5000. But bear in mind that I'm just estimating.

I hope that helps. I truly wish you luck in resolving this issue.