I’m on my building’s board and someone is posting lies about me. Is there anything I can do?
These situations often arise when a shareholder disagrees with board decisions or where there is a contentious board election.
“A shareholder who is angry with board members because of actions they are taking might claim the board, or a specific person on the board, is dishonest or engaging in self-dealing, in order to replace that person on the board,” says Bonnie Reid Berkow, a real estate attorney at Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. who has decades of experience representing co-ops and condos in New York City.
Recently, Berkow successfully represented the board in a defamation case against a former board member and another person who failed in their board election bid. The individuals had anonymously criticized board members in blogs and newsletters, alleging they were dishonest and that there was financial mismanagement.
Prior to commencement of the action, the board conducted an investigation using a cyber forensics expert in order to trace the emails to a particular individual’s computer.
When considering filing an action for defamation, you need to determine whether the language used would be considered a false statement of fact, which is actionable, or an opinion, which is not actionable.
“The false statements were made very broadly and without any supporting facts to explain the basis of the statements,” Berkow says. If a statement purports to be a fact without disclosing information on which the fact is based, then it is a defamatory statement and not an opinion.
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