Letter before action in a complaint about untrue statements

What’s a letter before action in a complaint about untrue statements and when do you need one?

This is a template letter of claim for defamation claims. This note and the draft letter accompanying it are for defamation only.

If the claim is regarding malicious falsehood, your letter would be similar to, and follow a lot of the same structure as, our letter of claim, but we recommend that legal advice is sought when drafting a claim of malicious falsehood.

In terms of a definition of defamation, the courts tend to try and see if the statement made would lower the person or business in the mind of right-thinking people (or is likely to affect a person adversely in the eyes of reasonable people generally).

To be defamatory, the statement must be published (so made to someone else/a third party) and it must have caused (or be likely to cause) serious harm to the reputation of the business – for example, serious financial loss.

There's quite a short time frame within which defamation claims have to be brought, just 12 months from when the statements were made, not from when you found out about them, although the courts do have some discretion to allow more time.

Defamation claims are complex. Some people are happy to deal with matters themselves at this stage, and others prefer to involve a lawyer.

It's really down to their judgement of the situation, and the use of common sense. The main guidance would be to not say anything in these letters that you wouldn't be happy for the court to later see, and that you’d find difficult to justify to the court.