Family Members/Memiors/ and Lawsuits

Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.


Jun 25, 2012
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I'm looking for situational examples here, if anyone could help.. I am hoping to find helpful reading material that pertains to my oncoming situation.

Which is this: I'm looking for examples of family members suing each other over published memiors that include them. Of course upon eventually I'll consult a laywer.. up until then, if there is anything anyone can add to this query, I appreciate it.

I know of 'RUNNING WITH SCISSORS', and how August's mother responded by writing her own memior. Additionally that the older brother wrote one as well.. but did only the Turcotts sue him?

His mother fully disagreed with him and won't speak to him, from what I read, but she didn't SUE him?

And I seem to be a poor googler, yet I'll keep trying: When the most recent movie about Sylvia Plath came out, did her daughter sue? I read that she was resistant, but I didn't know if she sued.

Any other notable examples?


Super Member
Oct 7, 2007
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You can't defame a dead person but if it reflects badly on a person's living family, they can sue but the circumstances are pretty much case-by-case. For the Burroughs case he changed the names and they still sued saying it reflected badly on the family. That's not to say they would have won, but most settle out of court because it's such a drawn out process.

Truth is a complete defense but you have to be able to prove it was true if you are sued.

Most cases are settled out of court. That doesn't mean the person who wrote the memoir lied, it means it's a pain and they want it gone.

There are also ways to phrase things that are less likely to result in a defamation suit. Ways to err on the side of caution.

When I wrote my intro to my book which detailed some of the abuse from my husband, I ran it past my lawyer friends (I am a lawyer so I have a lot of lawyer friends). We decided to go with the case that wound up in a restraining order. I testified, he was there, he did not object to or refute my testimony so he could never sue me for saying he was abusive. I testified to many instances of abuse and his lawyer basically stopped my testimony and said they didn't object to the restraining order. So it being on the record and he had the opportunity to object and didn't. So I could never be sued for it. But I toned all the other stuff waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay down just to be sure.

I think that researching it is a good idea. There are several angles to come at it with.

Happy Thanksgiving

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