Can I get the court to order a public retraction and/or apology for intentional infliction of emotional distress?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can I get the court to order a public retraction and/or apology for intentional infliction of emotional distress?

I’m a free lance artist. A client hired me to design a remodel for
their commercial building. I delivered the design, they paid for the
design. The local newspaper eventually did an article on local
building upgrades that I designed, including the one I did for the
Unknown to me the client, a contractor, was taking credit for the
design and scored a couple of contracts based on this deception. I
don’t know what may have come of that, but have a taped answering
machine message that says ‘New Link Destination
m O’Hara, this is and I want you
to know that I’m making it my mission in life to see that you don’t
sell any art, play any music, get any work or go to any parties in
this town ever again.’ She has been prolific and now in this town,
at 75, I’m an untouchable. Depression set in and I’ve been getting
treatments. I’ve been advised that I could possibly get a retraction
and public apology and maybe a cease and desist. What do you advise?

Asked on February 19, 2018 under Personal Injury, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

A person is allowed to try to get others to not hire or associate with you: there is no law against that, so you can't sue because they are "blackballing" you. Someone can tell friends, associates, etc. not to work with you, invite you to anything, etc. You cannot sue on this basis and so have no leverage to get a retraction or apology.
The above said, however, if she has LIED about you in a provable way (since if you can't prove it, you won't win in court) to others and that damages your reputation, that is defamation and you could sue on that basis. Defamation is the making of an untrue factual assertion--it must be an untrue fact, since true facts and negative opinions, no matter how harmful, are not defamation. Examples:
1) She claims that your original design was bad and she had to personally redo it, when in fact she used your design as submitted: that is an untrue factual claim and would be defamation if it damages your reputation. Or she claims that you have stolen your work from others, when you have not: again, defamation.
2) She claims that you are unpleasant and unprofessional: that is an opinion (her opinion; a subjective value judgment) and is not defamation. Everyone is legally entitled to an opinion.
3) She claims that you do not have formal architectural training when it is true that you do not: as a true fact, that is not defamation.
If you believe you were defamed, contact a personal injury attorney (the same ones as do car accident and slip and fall cases) to evaluate whether you have a valid case, how strong it is, and what it might be worth.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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