Saturday, December 11, 2004

Patti learns some law--the word "Latches" is defined for her.

Patti:
There is a legal principle called "latches" to handle long standing threats. Basically from the Latin it translates to "don't sit on your hands" or "get off your hands"
This gives anyone who is actually "threatened" with a lawsuit the right to demand that the other party "stop sitting on their hands" and either sue them immediately or lose forever the right to bring suit later, or alternately claim that enough time has passed since the initial "threat" to the point of actually filing suit that time has now run out.
ALL lawyers know this and that is why it is extremely unusual to see a letter with an actual threat to sue someone. A threat starts the clock ticking which no lawyer on the offensive wants to do. The letter to Joe does not contain a threat.
I would be shocked if ANY attorney read into the letter to Joe a threat to sue him. His letter is just standard attorney "talk".
Here is my layman's interpretation of the letter sent to Joe.
Hey Joe, we do NOT want to get in a legal battle with you, we want to settle our differences in a neighborly way. Here is our legal opinion on the issues we raised the way we see them and why we believe their is nothing illegal going on. Since we believe there is nothing illegal going on, we think your claims of fraud are wrong . Now that you know that WE believe charges of fraud are wrong, you need to be careful how you phrase things. Please don't call my clients criminals unless and until you are prepared to back up your claims. If you continue to make statements that you now have good reason to believe are FALSE (we are not talking criticism here, just knowingly false statements) then YOU will become the bad guy and we THEN will have the ability to use legal recourse to prevent your "targets" from FALSE AND derogatory statements.
By the way, please note the use of the word AND. The statements must be BOTH knowingly false AND derogatory. In other words, you can fling all the criticism you want, but if your intention is to defame someone by lying about them, you just may be stepping in some dog poop. While some may be skeptical that the use of a simple word like AND can dramatically change the meaning of a phrase, please remember that "legalese" involves the precise use of words to prevent confusion, not cause it.
For those who like details from the law dictionary:
Laches:
A legal doctrine whereby those who take too long to assert a legal right, lose their entitlement to compensation. When you claim that a person's legal suit against you is not valid because of this, you would call it "estoppel by laches".

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