Apparently, reporting a bad check writer counts as defamation to some people

I have a very small artisan business. A few months ago, someone ordered an large number of items, which I made and invoiced. She had over a month to pay via company check or any other nationally accepted payment methodology. After a month, she sends an check via PayPal, which won’t clear for 8 days, but she wants me to ship the product immediately. I told her that it’s not my policy to ship product until I’ve been paid.

The check didn’t clear.

I posted on a very small, private, industry specific Internet forum that other artisans might want to get all the money up front before shipping anything to this particular client. I said nothing disparaging other than the truth: She’d ordered a bunch of stuff, tried to get me to ship it before she paid for it, and her check didn’t clear.

Here’s exactly what I posted:

Hey gang, you may want to avoid doing any business with [X] unless you get cash up front. She totally flaked on me after custom ordering 100 bars. She didn’t pay the invoice for over a month, then when she finally paid it, she paid with a check that would take 8 days to clear and wanted me to ship everything that day. (Which of course, I didn’t, because I’m not stupid.) The check bounced higher than a cheerleader on a trampoline. No response from her when I’ve tried to contact her.

For the record, she seemed like a really nice person, and dealing with her was pleasant…except for the getting stuck with 100 bars of soap part. Just a heads up that cash on the barrelhead may be the best method of doing business with her, should you choose to do so.

She is now threatening to sue me for defamation. She put in her letter the name of one of Dallas’ biggest law firms, (although she spelled it wrong…it’s Vinson and Elkins, not Vince)but the letter isn’t on any letterhead, it’s just plain white printer paper. She doesn’t reference an attorney by name, nor does she quote statues or code under which I *could* be sued for defamation. What she says, and I quote, is:

“Under US Federal Law, Texas State Law, and Canadian Common Law, your written comments are defamatory as they attack my personal reputation, expose both me and my companies to public ridicule, and have deprived me of my right to enjoy normal social contacts. In addition, your written comments have prejudiced me in my business and as a direct result of your actions; both me and my business have suffered financial loss. If the statements are not removed by October 4 (I didn’t get this letter until today), my attorneys from the Dallas Texas law firm Vince and Elkins LLP will begin immediate action against you and (then she got my company name wrong.)”

She goes on for a another page and a half making up a series of events that are not born out my my email records.

She specifically directed that I manufacture something for her…costing me materials, time, and a production schedule shift. Note that kiting checks, for amounts over $250, especially across international lines, I believe is a big ol No-No.

So, I’ve sent a fax to “her attorneys”, asking them to give me the name of the attorney of record for her suit. When I have his/her name, I’ll be more than willing to give him the complete email chain of events, including the PayPal notice of her bounced check. If they’re seriously going to pursue suing me, I guess I’ll have no choice but to contact USAA (my business insurer) and attorneys. I’m also, Monday morning, going to check with the DA about whether this constitutes Theft of Services, and if so, I’m pressing charges. I was going to let the whole thing slide, but if she really wants to try and sue me for trying to protect other small business people, then she can explain to a judge why she was bouncing checks across international lines.

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