Blogs

Quest Diagnostics v. Mercola

Date: 

05/29/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Joseph Mercola

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court, District of New Jersey

Case Number: 

09-CV-2632

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Quest Diagnostics, a medical diagnostic testing company, sued Joseph Mercola, who runs the Natural Health Center along with a couple of related websites, over articles critical of Quest that were allegedly published by Mercola on one of his websites. 

Quest alleged that that the articles contained false and defamatory information, stating that its tests are "inaccurate and unreliable" and have "caused some dialysis patients to undergo unnecessary surgery," while advocating on behalf of LabCorp, one of Quest's competitors.  (Compl. ¶¶ 11-12, 14-15.)  Advertisements for Mercola's products and services also allegedly appeared in close proximity to the articles.  (Compl. ¶ 12.)  Based on user comments posted to Mercola's articles, Quest claimed that the articles have deceived consumers and caused Quest significant harm.  (Compl. ¶ 13.) 

According to the Complaint, Quest had previously asked Mercola to remove an article he published in January 2009 that Quest claimed was "false and misleading."  Mercola allegedly agreed to take down the offending article and "refrain from making false and misleading statements regarding Quest Diagnostics, Inc."  (Compl. ¶ 16.)  Quest alleged that the articles that were at issue in this lawsuit violated this agreement.  

Quest brought claims of unfair competition under both the federal Lanham Act and New Jersey state statutes, defamation, trade libel, and breach of contract.  Quest sought money damages, attorneys' fees and costs, as well as a permanent injunction requiring Mercola to remove "all false and misleading statements regarding Quest Diagnostics from any publication or on-line medium under [Mercola's] direction, custody or control," post a retraction, and refrain from making any false or misleading statements regarding Quest.

On July 31, 2009, Quest voluntarily dismissed its claims.  All posts regarding Quest Diagnostics appear to have been removed from the mercola.com website.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

08/03/2009 - LB editing

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Office of Dispute Resolution v. Stengle

Date: 

06/30/2006

Threat Type: 

Disciplinary Action

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Linda J. Stengle

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

Case Number: 

4:06-cv-1913

Legal Counsel: 

Jana R. Barnett

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Description: 

Linda Stengle was a special education due process hearing officer from July 1998 through June 2006, working for the Pennsylvania Office of Dispute Resolution on consecutive one-year contracts.  In June 2006, her contract was not renewed because of her blogging activity.  On her blog, Stengle discussed issues surrounding children with disabilities and apparently sometimes touched upon the topics of her hearings. 

Stengle subsequently filed a lawsuit against several Pennsylvania agencies and officials claiming that they violated her First Amendment rights by choosing not to reappoint her as a hearing officer because of her blogging. The court ultimately dismissed Stengle's First Amendment claims, finding that the government's interest in ensuring an impartial dispute resolution system outweighed Stengle's First Amendment interest.

CMLP Notes: 

Decision at 2009 WL 1138119, no image just yet

07/28/2009 - LB editing

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Glass v. Doe d/b/a pogowasright.org

Date: 

07/30/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Jane Doe d/b/a pogowasright.org

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

U.S. District Court, Central District of California

Case Number: 

CV09-05648 CBM (FFMx)

Legal Counsel: 

Gregory Alan Rutchik; Colette Vogele

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Description: 

Jane Doe, an anonymous blogger and author of the website Pogo Was Right: Privacy News from Around the World, filed suit in the Central District of California against Lillian Glass, Ph.D. The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment that (1) Doe is protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act from liability for postings made by anonymous third parties in the website's forums, and (2) that certain comments made by Doe on the blog do not defame Dr. Glass.

The case arises from a series of posts by Doe on the Pogo Was Right website relating to the mental health problems experienced by Britney Spears and the resulting media coverage. Dr. Glass, a "body language expert," had appeared on CNN's Showbiz Tonight and on CNN's Primetime Live with Erica Hill to discuss Ms. Spears' behavior and to offer a potential diagnosis of Ms. Spears as suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder. In response, Doe authored a series of posts criticizing Dr. Glass' comments and raising concerns about Ms. Spears' privacy and patient confidentiality.

On June 18, 2009, an attorney for Dr. Glass wrote to Doe, asserting that certain comments by Doe and an anonymous forum poster "violated the privacy rights and other rights" of Dr. Glass; were "false and defamatory in nature, and [were] designed to embarrass and hold my client up to ridicule"; and "incited persons with such propensities and have called for Dr. Glass' death." (The latter in reference to the following from one of Doe's posts:  "'Dr. Phil' catches some flak and dishes some out A complaint filed about Dr. Phil -- but is it wellfounded? People who live in Glass psychology houses shouldn't throw stones. They should be stoned. Dr.
Lillian Glass backpedals, but is it too little, too late?") The letter demanded that Doe remove all references to Dr. Glass from her posts.

Dr. Glass' attorney subsequently sent an email once again threatening to sue if Doe did not remove the references to Dr. Glass from the webiste. The email also stated: "I should also mention to you that if a suit is filed against you, then there will be a public record of your identity and of your capacity as the blogger of this 'pogowasright.org' and other websites. Since you have gone to such great lengths to hide your identity improperly, I think this should also be a concern of yours." Doe filed the complaint for a declaratory judgment ten days after receipt of this email.

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

Westlaw Alert

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

The Show Must Go On: Iran’s Mass Trial and its Losing War on Bloggers

Iran’s campaign to protect the results of the June 12 double-plus de

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Sethi v. TechCrunch

Date: 

06/28/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

TechCrunch; Michael Arrington

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

International

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On February 19, 2009, lawyers representing Sam Sethi, a former employee of TechCrunch and former CEO of now-defunct BlogNation, sent a letter to TechCrunch co-founder Michael Arrington threatening suit "within the jurisdiction of the High Court of England and Wales, at the Royal Courts of Justice (in London, UK)" for libel. 

The basis for the suit is a series of allegedly defamatory posts on CrunchNotes (the TechCrunch blog) which stated, according to the letter, that:

  • "[S]ome of [Sethi's] former writers have accused him of fraud and other crimes."
  • Sethi "had threatened to kill" one of his former business associates.
  • Sethi was "involved in '. . . usury, fraud even'" (quoting from a blog post by Oliver Starr).
  • Sethi is "predisposed to making threats of violence and making others feel threatened by him and being thoroughly deceitful."

Sethi is also suing based upon the "posting [of] a confidential (and stolen) termsheet from [BlogNations'] VC funders," which, according to Sethi's lawyers, "seriously jeopardize[d]" the BlogNation's funding.  Sethi is asking TechCrunch to remove all posts that include allegedly false accusations about him, publish an apology, undertake "not to repeat the same or similar libels again," pay his legal costs, and donate damages to a charity or "towards fees of those unpaid editors at Blognation who had remained faithful to the end."

Michael Arrington replied to Sethi's letter through his lawyers, asserting that TechCrunch is "not susceptible to the jurisdiction of English courts" and that an English judgment would not be recognized or enforced by US courts.  He also provided evidence, mostly in the form of blog posts and comments by others, that he believes supports the veracity of the statements made in the CrunchNotes posts at issue.  TechCrunch has also offered Sethi the opportunity to submit a reply "concerning the challenged statements" that would be posted "with equal prominence to [TechCrunch's] previous posts about him."

According to TechCrunch, a lawsuit was filed on June 28, 2009. Based on third party reports, the lawsuit appears to have been filed in the United Kingdom.

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

07/07/2009 - LB editing; cannot find court information or documents

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Complaints at Teatime! The Shaw-Skinner Lawsuit and the Futility of Legal Duels

Pistols at Dawn!” has become “Subpoenas at Noon!” or “Complaints at Teatime!” Today’s legal duelists, armed with dubious lawsuits charging defamation, are B.F. Shaw Printing, the parent company of the Northwest Herald, and Cal Skinner, a blogger.

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Subject Area: 

New Jersey Court Says Blogger Shellee Hale Not Protected By Shield Law

In a June 30 decision, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Louis Locascio ruled that Shellee Hale, a blogger, private investigator, and "life coach," could not invoke New Jersey's journalist shield law to protect the identity of her sources in connection with postings she

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Palin Threatens to Sue Blogger for Publishing Rumors of Investigation, Ensures Rumors Will Get Wide Attention

Exercising one of the freedoms Americans celebrate on Independence Day -- the freedom to threaten an ill-conceived lawsuit -- Alaska Governor Sarah Palin directed her lawyer to publish an open letter to Shannyn Moore, an Alaska blogger, radio personality, Huffington Post contributor, and frequent guest on MSNBC, threatening to file a defam

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Palin v. Moore

Date: 

07/04/2009

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Shannyn Moore; Huffington Post, MSNBC; New York Times; and The Washington Post

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Media Company

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Broadcast
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On July 4, 2009, an attorney for Alaska Governor Sarah Palin sent an open letter to Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore, the Huffington Post, MSNBC, the New York Times, The Washington Post, and other news organizations threatening to file defamation lawsuits if they claimed "as 'fact' that Governor Palin resigned because she is 'under federal investigation' for embezzlement or other criminal wrongdoing." 

Attorney Thomas Van Flein states in the letter:

To the extent several websites, most notably liberal Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore, are now claiming as "fact" that Governor Palin resigned because she is "under federal investigation" for embezzlement or other criminal wrongdoing, we will be exploring legal options this week to address such defamation. This is to provide notice to Ms. Moore, and those who re-publish the defamation, such as Huffington Post, MSNBC, the New York Times and The Washington Post, that the Palins will not allow them to propagate defamatory material without answering to this in a court of law. 

According to Politico, neither the New York Times nor The Washington Post "made any mention of the embezzlement rumors in their Saturday editions, but sources close to Palin consider the letter a warning shot to stay away from the topic."

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Blog Buzzer Sounds; FTC Calls Foul

UPDATE: After making some changes from the proposal discussed below, the FTC published the new regulations in the Federal Register on Oct. 5, 2009, with the new rules scheduled to go into effect on Dec. 1.  More details here.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

HIMSS v. PedSource

Date: 

02/25/2009

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Chilmark Research; Physician's Computer Company

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Organization

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Lawyers from the Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS), a health care industry trade group, sent letters to two bloggers demanding that they remove allegedly offensive and defamatory user comments, provide any information that may help in the identification of the comment posters, and preserve all records relating to the posters.  Specifically, the letters concern a comment by “Rocky Ostrand” on Chip Hart's blog, “Confessions of a Pediatric Practice Consultant,” which is hosted at pedsource.com, a service provided by Physician's Computer Company (PCC); and comments by “Calvin Jablonski” on the blog of Chilmark Research.

Both bloggers have posted responses to the letters, refusing to remove the allegely defamatory comments or provide information to aid in identifying the potentially pseudonymous commenters.  Both have, however, offered to post any response to the comments which HIMSS may wish to make.  At this point, it does not appear that HIMSS has taken either blogger up on this offer.

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Legal Blog Watch

LB - 06/12/2009

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Target Corp. v. Doe

Date: 

09/05/2006

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Doe, Charles Emmerson William Harris

Type of Party: 

Large Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division

Case Number: 

1:06-cv-02116-CC

Publication Medium: 

Forum
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Target Corporation, a chain retailer, filed a lawsuit against an initially unknown Internet user with the handle “Target Sucks” for copyright infringement and misappropriation of trade secrets for allegedly posting information on various retail-employee forums and blogs. Target identified the user as Charles Emmerson William Harris based on the information it received after subpoening Internet providers. Harris allegedly posted Target’s "Asset Protection Directives," an in-house theft prevention manual, on several websites critical of Target.

Target asserted in its two-count complaint that the user “acquired a copy of Target’s AP Directives from a recently terminated Target employee, Scott Hundt.” Target alleges that Hundt emailed a copy of the AP Directives to the user, as well as posting that information on the website www.targetunion.org. After learning of the post, Target threatened legal action against Hundt, who admitted wrongdoing and cooperated with Target's subsequent efforts to block the further dissemination of the AP Directives. Target and Hundt emailed cease-and-desist orders to the user and received no reply. Target alleges that instead of complying with its demands, the user posted the AP directives to “various retail-employee forums on the Internet.” Target sent cease-and-desist letters to those forums, and the AP Directives were removed. Target asserted that the user’s “dissemination of the Target AP Directives is deliberate, willful, malicious, oppressive, and without regard to Target’s proprietary rights.” Compl. ¶ 33. Further, the complaint asserted that user had disclosed “such information without the express or implied consent of Target, for the benefit of himself.” Compl. ¶ 42.

In an effort to discover the identity of the then-anonymous user, Target subpoenaed AOL, Yahoo!, Hotmail, Qwest, Comcast, and UPS.  Compl. Ex. B. The court granted these subpoenas. Based on the information it obtained through investigation, Target identified the user as Charles Harris. Target claimed that it confirmed this identification based on the documents relating to IP address and P.O. Box information it received in response to its subpoenas to website, email, mail, and internet providers. Req. for Service.

On 04/10/2007, a civil summons was issued for  Charles Emerson William Harris. However, attempts to locate Harris for service failed. On 12/21/2007, the court granted a motion for service by publication to the Fulton County Daily Report. This notice was posted on 01/15/2008.  On 07/16/2008 the case was dismissed for want of prosecution pursuant to Local Rule 41.3(A)(3) because the case had been pending for more than 6 months without a substantial proceeding of record.  

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Source: TechDirt

AVM 6/02

 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Dull: Ockham's Razor in the age of Twitter

The raging villagers of the twitterverse were busy in April. The cruelest month gave witness to #savejon and #amazonfail, campaigns against corporate bullying and intolerance, respectively.  However, both movements likely put the black hat on the wrong party.  These cybermaulings should frighten us all and spur us to let a little Ockham into our hearts.

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NY Legislature Proactively Considering Whether Shield Law Applies to Bloggers? How Novel!

As anyone who's been faithfully reading the CMLP blog knows, the law hasn't been particularly good at dealing with the intersection of media shield laws and bloggers.  Although there seems to be a modest trend towards application of shield laws to anonymous commenters on news stories, the judiciary's application of shield laws to bloggers has been pretty

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Subject Area: 

Huffington Post: Web Pirate or Prophet?

I write a blog at my home newspaper, The Dallas Morning News, and when I get 10 or 20 comments on a post, I am feeling pretty good about myself. Arianna Huffington? Her site, Huffington Post, draws around a million comments a month.

Subject Area: 

Anonymous Blogging Guide

Thinking about launching an anonymous blog?  There are lots of reasons you might want to publish your blog or website anonymously. For example, publishing anonymously may protect you from retaliation by those who don't like what you write. We've seen plenty of bloggers harassed or fired from their jobs for what they've written.  In some places, what you write could even threaten your safety or lead to your arrest or detention.  

Subject Area: 

Live-blogging journalism? You betcha. It's just not always good journalism.

As a young journalist, I remember listening with interest to colleagues recounting long-ago fights for the right to bring cameras into the court room. And while that battle hasn't been won everywhere, it appears nevertheless to be giving way to a new wave of concerns.

Subject Area: 

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