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

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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
client.
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 ‘Tom 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

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 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.


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