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What actually constitutes harassment, cyber-stalking/bullying, defamation of character, slander, or liable?

Houston, TX |

In written correspondence regarding a disputed issue over the sale of a horse, my partner has received emails which have been angry, accusatory and intimidatory. The man has stopped short of actually threatening anything (other than legal action), but the tone of his mails have considerably unsettled my partner, leaving her upset, and distressed. I would like to know what exactly a person has to say or do for his actions to become legally unacceptable. Is there such a thing as psychological harassment, as the man is very much 'inside the mind/life' of my partner now and has had a profound effect on her mental state since this began. Also, if the man obtained her contact details from a place where they were not held/displayed publicly, has he broken any law (asking a secretary of a club)?

Attorney Answers 3

  1. Best answer

    There may be some privacy claims, such as intrusion on seclusion or intentional infliction of emotional distress, or privacy violations depending on where and how the individual obtained the contact information or other details in the letter, but it's difficult to evaluate without knowing more about the situation and reviewing the actual correspondence.

  2. It is not defamation, as not published to a third party.

  3. The term "cyber bullying" is generally applicable to students. Defamation, false light, slander and libel are applicable to situations where the information is published, not private communications.

    There is a tort of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, but it has a very high standard, and must generally constitute behavior that "shocks the conscience" of ordinary people.

    There is a criminal statute in Texas that prohibits "repeated electronic communications in a
    manner reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend another." (Section 42.07)

    There is no exact, magic words that constitute harassment. It just depends on what a reasonable person receiving such communication would believe.

    If the communication can be reasonably interpreted as a threat of bodily injury, then that is a felony under Section 22.07.

    To make it clear, I would send the person a letter stating that he is not permitted to contact her (or you), especially at work. It's not legally binding on him, but if you send a clear, straightforward letter, it may help demonstrate his intent to annoy or harass, if he continues.

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