Given the business I run, the possibility of getting sued is always there, which to me is incentive to do the job well and to communicate effectively. If you had told me that someone would threaten suit over a blog post, I'd have laughed. No one could possibly be that lame, right?
My apologies to my regular reading audience. I generally try to stay positive. That said, I have a policy of not letting twits take up brain space. Unfortunately, some simply don't comprehend when they cross the line from annoying and ignorable to blog fodder, with a side order of ridicule. Scott Fishman, Coach of Team All-American, has, in my opinion, managed to cross that particular line. For those new to the blog, Fishman was a coach I hired back in March and fired in May, almost two months to the day. I put up a longish blog post about my experience and forgot about him.
On July 18th, I received an email from Scott Fishman stating that he intended to sue me for 'defamation'. He did not then and has not since then, explained what was inaccurate in that post. As near as I can tell, and this is again my opinion, Fishman is a special snowflake for whom an negative comment, even though truthful, is a fate not to be borne. So, he ran to his lawyer/mommy to basically shout, "Make him stop!" Wah. Here's the letter from the 'lawyer':
CEASE AND DESIST
Dear Mr. Duffau:
You are hereby directed to CEASE AND DESIST ALL DEFAMATION OF SCOTT FISHMAN’S AND TEAM ALL-AMERICAN’S CHARACTER AND REPUTATION.
SCOTT FISHMAN is a respected, certified, and educated professional. He has spent years serving athletes in the fitness industry and building a positive reputation. SCOTT FISHMAN has learned that you have engaged in spreading false, destructive, and defamatory rumors about him.
Under Washington law, it is unlawful to engage in defamation of another’s character and reputation. Defamation consists of
(1) a statement that tends to injure reputation;
(2) communicated to another; and
(3) that the speaker knew or should have known was false.
Your defamatory statements are located at http://www.paulduffau.com/blog/category/why-i-fired-my-coach.
Accordingly, we demand that you (A) immediately cease and desist your unlawful defamation of SCOTT FISHMAN, TEAM ALL-AMERICAN, and TEAMALLAMERICAN.COM by removing the above names from all of your written communication (B) provide us with prompt written assurance within ten (10) days that you will cease and desist from further defamation of SCOTT FISHMAN’s character and reputation.
If you do not comply with this cease and desist demand within this time period, SCOTT FISHMAN is entitled to seek monetary damages and equitable relief for your defamation. In the event you fail to meet this demand, please be advised that SCOTT FISHMAN will pursue all available legal remedies, including seeking monetary damages, injunctive relief, and an order that you pay court costs and attorney’s fees. Your liability and exposure under such legal action could be considerable.
Before taking these steps, however, my client wishes to give you one opportunity to discontinue your illegal conduct by complying with this demand within ten (10) days.
Team All-American Legal Counsel
You'll notice I use scare quotes around lawyer. Here's where I give Coach Scott Fishman a pro tip. Don't use a cut-and-paste job from the internet that your target can locate in thirty seconds. In this case, I don't think it even took that long to find http://thompsonhall.com/cease-desist-defamation-of-character-template-example-sample-form/ and realize that Coach Scott Fishman appears to have lifted the letter whole, typed in the various names, and sent it along as his own 'legal' counsel. There a theory about a lawyer acting as his own attorney. It applies to non-attorneys, as well.
Now, as I mentioned, wasting brain space on chuckleheads goes against my general principles of being a useful and productive member of society. I fired off a reply that nothing in my article was false or defamatory, but I took it down a couple of days later because it wasn't worth the trouble to fight about it. Went back to forgetting about the good coach and got on with my various adventures.
Yeah, I know, I should have known better. Special snowflakes are never satisfied. Since the internet is forever (think about that for a moment, Scott), a Goodreads link to my blog still showed the article. Monday morning, I got a follow-up threat from Scott Fishman. (Pro-tip #2 – even adding a firstname.lastname@example.org doesn't make it more bona fide – language counts. At least try to sound like a lawyer.) Here's the text of the second email:
Dear Mr. Duffau, I have prepared the paperwork and am ready to file a defamation lawsuit against you. Coach Scott has asked us to give you one more chance in case you overlooked the following: http://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/8315449-why-i-fired-my-coach Please remove this by the end of THIS week or we will move forward with the lawsuit. We have given you multiple chances to remedy this issue and this is the final request per Scott's directive. TAA Legal Counsel
So, for a second time, the dude forces his way into my life. The first time, I tried cutting him slack, figuring he's young and I didn't really have time for the hassle. Note to self: should have taken care of this the first time around, as the hassle returned. It's not like haven't had to deal with my share of bullies. I learned long ago that the best way to handle a bully is to refuse to back down. I sent Coach Scott Fishman a reply. It was short:
Dear Scott Fishman:,
Do you know the proper response is to a bully? Nothing in the original article was defaming and at no point have you identified a single point of defamation. I expect a withdrawal of this effort at intimidation by email within the next 24 hours. Failure to do so will result in the original article being reposted to my blog. Doubt me? Try me.
Rereading it, I realize I should have used falsity in place of defamation, but I think the larger point of 'Quit screwing with me' got across. I didn't get a reply – can't say I really expected to as that would require a special snowflake like Coach Scott Fishman to step up and act like an adult. So, I put the post back up a few minutes before launching this one. Now, I did wait almost another 24 hours past my own deadline, so it's not like I jumped the gun. Also, I reached out one more time this morning by email and once again by text, to no response. In the email, I made a point of addressing how potential hurtful to his business his actions are.
To me, it is a sad thing when a person, even one I don't have warm-fuzzies for, acts in a manner that any rational person can see will be detrimental to themselves. When you're engaged in providing personal coaching services, trust is a huge component. This public tiff between the two of us is going to have a negative impact on Scott's business, because it raises concerns regarding his character. I have now tried three times to get him to understand that.
Now the ball is, to use a very tired cliché, in Scott Fishman's court. Are you going to threaten to sue me again, Scott? Or are you willing to let me go to hell in my own way while I agree to do the same with you?
Here's a tip for those of you looking to hire a coach. Find out ahead of time if the coach is a jerk who is likely to threaten legal action if you post a discouraging word about them. Those of you looking to hire Scott Fishman of Team All-American already know the answer to that one.
(Bonus Pro-tip – when optimizing, use the searchable term to make sure it pops on the first page of search results. In this case, Fishman, Scott Fishman, and Coach Scott Fishman should move this right to the first page of Google – second, at worst.)
(But wait, there's more! The old adage of never picking a fight with a guy that buys ink by the barrel is no longer operational. Pixels are much, much cheaper. And forever.)