If you are being sued, you have our sympathy. We can’t offer you specific legal advice because we aren’t lawyers and we don’t know the specifics of your situation. But these three guidelines are appropriate to almost any lawsuit.
This is a scary situation. You’re probably afraid, angry, and confused. You probably have a lot of ideas about how you want to respond right this moment. Take a deep breath and don’t do anything rash.
This is likely to be a long and grueling process. Focus on self care and start thinking about what kind of support you will need from friends and family.
We can’t emphasize this enough: you need a lawyer. We know a lot about defamation law and we would never consider trying to defend ourselves without a lawyer.
You need to act quickly: in many states, you lose a lawsuit by default if you don’t file a formal response within a short timeframe. In Washington, the deadline is only 20 days.
What if you can’t afford a lawyer? You’re in a tough place and we regret that we don’t have any good advice for you. We live in a country where access to justice costs money and the legal system reinforces patterns of structural inequality. It’s worth seeing if you can find someone who will take your case pro bono (for free), but that can be hard to do.
Here’s your new mantra: “my lawyer has advised me not to comment on pending litigation”.
When your case goes to trial, your lawyer will tell the court your side of the story. They can’t lie on your behalf, but they will present you in the best possible light. If you shoot your mouth off on Facebook, you can easily undermine your case.
Let’s say Morgan is suing you for saying they’re an unsafe yoga instructor. You have compelling evidence that Morgan injured Blair during a class and you believe but can’t prove that Chris developed back problems because of taking classes with Morgan. You and your lawyer decide to focus on what happened to Blair, because that is what you have the strongest evidence for.
If you go on Facebook and rant about how angry you are about Morgan injuring Chris, you’re giving Morgan’s lawyer ammunition to use against you. They can use your post to shift the focus of the case to Chris, and to argue that you acted rashly and with insufficient evidence.
It’s important that you keep your message simple and consistent. And the best way to do that is to shut up and let your lawyer do the talking.