Business Torts

BESCR v. Goodman

Date: 

11/14/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Goodman Reporting Service; Trisha Goodman; Barry Simon; Michael Henry; Joan Burke

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Circuit Court for the 16th Judicial Circuit, Kane County, Illinois

Case Number: 

07 LK 619

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Material Removed

Description: 

On November 14, 2007, BESCR, a court reporting service company otherwise known as Eastwood-Stein Deposition Management, and two of its principals, sued Trisha Goodman, an Oklahoma-based court reporter, and others for statements appearing on Goodman's blog, "Let's Stop Eastwood-Stein."

According to BESCR's complaint, Goodman started the blog in late September 2007 after she allegedly was not paid $2,300 by BESCR for her work. On the blog, Goodman allegedly made statements indicating that BESCR was engaging in fraudulent business practices and was about to be sued by the Illinois Attorney General's Office. She also allegedly encouraged readers to refuse to accept jobs from BESCR and to forward the statements appearing on it to other court reporters, videographers, interpreters, and technical support people.

BESCR sued Goodman for libel, interference with contracts and business opportunities, and other torts. In addition to Goodman, the plaintiffs named three other individuals as co-defendants and co-conspirators: Michael Henry, a videographer and former BESCR employee; Barry Simon, another former BESCR employee; and Joan Burke, who has "no recent relationship" with BESCR, according to the complaint. These individuals were named as defendants because of their comments on the blog and distribution of its contents (through links and forwarding) to other court reporters and potential BESCR customers.

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

Status checked on 6/02/08 (AAB)

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Ubisoft v. Kyanka

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Date: 

11/15/2007

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Richard Kyanka

Type of Party: 

Individual
Large Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Richard "Lowtax" Kyanka is the webmaster of SomethingAwful, an online community forum with the catch phrase: "The Internet Makes You Stupid." A member of the community posted a link on the forum to a comic that depicted Jade Raymond engaged in sexual activities. Raymond is a video game producer for Ubisoft.

Ubisoft sent Kyanka a cease-and-desist letter, demanding that the comic be taken down from the site and threatening legal action. The letter claims that the comic infringed upon Ms. Raymond's "personal rights," caused emotional distress, and constituted trademark infringement, among other things.

Mr. Kyanka posted the letter on SomethingAwful in his own forum posting. In the posting, Kyanka claimed that he had no connection to the comic except that a link to it was posted on the forum. He said that he does not know who drew the comic and does not know where the image is located. Kyanka also sent Ubisoft's legal counsel a reply email, indicating that perhaps he did not take the legal threat seriously:

Please let it be known that hereforth I have read the express mail and email sent thereforth by Famous Lawyer David Anderson of the Famous Lawyer Law Business of Nixon Peabody LLP, and furthermore a declaration shall be expressed on the part of Internet User Rich “Lowtax” Kyanka that that forth herethrough I have conducted rigorous tests implemented through a vigorous barrage of legal studies, and furthermore hitherthrough these rigorous tests have therefore proven Famous Lawyer David Anderson of the Famous Lawyer Law Business of Nixon Peabody LLP shall be recognized as a man of the fag persuasion.

Pursuant to the United Dairy Council

Rich “Lowtax” Kyanka
Internet

The link to the comic is no longer on SomethingAwful, and Ubisoft has not taken any legal action against Kyanka.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Requested a PDF of the letter from Kyanka, but haven't heard anything back yet. -Stefani

SB - we have a copy of the comic at issue. We probably don't want to post it, as it is sexually explicit.

DA - I agree.

As of 6/09/2008  - no developments. Do we still want to try and get the letter? (JMC)

New School of Orlando v. McSween: Florida School Sues Blogging Parent for Defamation

On October 26, 2007, the New School of Orlando sued Sonjia McSween, the parent of a former student, in Florida state court, asserting claims of libel, slander, and tortious interference with business relations.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Global Telemedia International v. Does 1-4

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

11/22/2000

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Global Telemedia International, Inc.; Jonathon Bentley-Stevens; Regina Peralta

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Does 1-4

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court, Central District of California

Case Number: 

8:00CV01155

Legal Counsel: 

Megan E Gray, Brian Ross, Bradley Kent Warner, David Olson

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Global Telemedia International (GTMI), a publicly traded telecommunications company, sued a number of anonymous users who posted negative comments about the firm and its officers on the financial message board Raging Bull, alleging that the posts constituted trade libel and libel per se.

On December 20, 2000, two defendants filed a motion to strike the complaint based on the California anti-SLAPP statute (California Civil Procedure § 425.16). This provision sets out a two-part test to gain protection, namely (a) the comments were posted in exercise of the defendants' free speech "in connection with a public issue", and (b) the plaintiff cannot show a probability of success at trial.

On February 23, 2001, the federal district court struck the case against the two defendants and held that speech can be "in connection with a public issue" notwithstanding the commercial character of the subject matter. The fortunes of a publicly traded company with a large number of shareholders is a matter of public and not just commercial concern.

The court also held that the posts were most likely to be taken by readers to be opinion rather than fact because they were "full of hyperbole, invective, short-hand phrases and language not generally found in fact-based documents," and "posted anonymously in the general cacophony of an Internet chat-room in which about 1,000 messages a week are posted about GTMI" (132 F. Supp. 2d 1261, 1267).

Update:

3/2/2001 - Court grants defendant Barry King's motion to strike under California's anti-SLAPP law

7/20/2001 - Case dismissed for lack of prosecution

10/5/2001- Court awarded defendant Barry King attorneys fees of $17,969.25

1/22/2002 - Court awarded attorneys fees of $37,276.83 to defendant Ronald Reader

Content Type: 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Pivar v. Myers

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

08/16/2007

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Stuart Pivar

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Seed Media Group, LLC; Paul Z. Myers

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York

Case Number: 

1:07-CV-07334

Legal Counsel: 

None

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

In August 2007, Stuart Pivar sued science blogger P.Z. Meyers and Seed Media Group, LLC (SMG) for defamation in federal court in New York.

According to the complaint, Pivar is an "industrial, inventor and scientist" who edited a book called Lifecode, which puts forth a theory of "biological self-organization." Myers, an associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota at Morris, posted critical comments about Pivar's work on his blog, "Pharyngula," which is hosted on SMG's ScienceBlogs.com. Specifically, Myers allegedly referred to Pivar as a "classic crackpot."

Pivar's complaint included claims for defamation and tortious interference with business relations. He sought injunctive relief and $60 milion in compensatory and punitive damages.

Extensive blog commentary on the case was largely derisive of both Pivar and his claims (see "Related Links" below). Only eleven days after filing the complaint, Pivar voluntarily withdrew the lawsuit.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Experian Information Solutions v. Sheehan

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

08/18/1997

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Experian Information Solutions, Inc.

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

William A. Sheehan, III

Type of Party: 

Large Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Western District of Washington

Case Number: 

C97-1360WD

Legal Counsel: 

Grant J. Silvernale, Noel Treat

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Injunction Denied
Injunction Issued

Description: 

William A. Sheehan sued a number of credit reporting agencies, including Experian, in federal court in Washington, alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. In that litigation, Experian asserted a counterclaim against Sheehan for defamation, commercial disparagement and other torts based on the statements appearing on Sheehan's website.

According to documents filed in that case, Sheehan operated a personal website, on which he posted criticism of government officials and credit reporting agencies. His postings included comments about Experian, allegedly calling its employees "liars" and "scumbags." Sheehan also allegedly posted employees' home addresses and telephone numbers.

Experian moved for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to prohibit Sheehan from posting on his website: (1) "any false or defamatory statements about Experian, its employees or agents"; and (2) "any other language specifically calculated to induce others to harass, threaten or attack Experian, its employees or agents, including, but not limited to, their social security numbers, home phone numbers and maps to their homes." In June 1998, the court denied the first part of Experian's requested order, but granted the second.

In July 1998, the court granted Sheehan's motion to dissolve the temporary restraining order and denied Experian's motion for a preliminary injunction. The court reaffirmed its prior ruling that the first part of the restraining order would constitute an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech because it asked the court to prohibit speech that had not yet been found to be defamatory. It further held that the second part of the restraining order constituted an unconstitutional prior restraint because Sheehan's online speech was protected by the First Amendment since there was no evidence that he had published anything that could be deemed an incitement to imminent unlawful action.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

VeriResume v. Marshall (Email)

Date: 

10/30/2007

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Tabatha Miller

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Publication Medium: 

Blog
User Comment
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Lawsuit Filed

Description: 

Tabatha Marshall runs a blog and website at TabathaMarshall.com, on which she writes about suspicious online job solicitations and so-called "phishing" practices. Part of her site consists of the "PhishBucket," a "directory of companies / individuals suspected of targeting job seekers with deceptive offers." Included in the PhishBucket is an entry for "VeriResume (Internet Solutions)," which bears the statement "Pending Investigation Phisher" at the top-right of the page. The entry also contains physical and web addresses for the company, links to posts about it (internal and external), and names of affiliated companies. The PhishBucket also includes entries for other companies operated by Internet Solutions Corporation, including Ask America, Too Spoiled, and USA Voice.

Marshall's site also contains articles relating to her research and views about certain companies and their online job solicitations. Among these is a post entitled "Something's VeriRotten with VeriResume." In this post, Marshall excerpts a sample email from VeriResume soliciting job applications, criticizes the company's position on resume fraud, and links to other sites (like the Better Business Bureau) with information about VeriResume and Internet Solutions. She invites readers to "[c]heck out the research and YOU decide if you want to give them your info."

Several users submitted comments to the post that were critical of VeriResume. One user, who claimed to be a company employee, alleged that the company engages in a "bait-and-switch" routine after applicants submit their information, according to documents attached to the complaint. In an update to her original post, Marshall summarized these user's comments and expounded on the situation.

Starting on October 30, 2007, a representative of VeriResume (or Internet Solutions -- the record is not clear on this point) contacted Marshall via email, claiming that information about VeriResume and other companies posted on Marshall's website was incorrect and asking her to remove it. According to Marshall, the company representative also contacted her landlord, claiming that Marshall was operating a business in her house, a claim that Marshall disputes.

On October 31, 2007, Counsel representing VeriResume and ten other Internet Solutions-affiliated companies sent a cease-and-desist letter to Marshall via email. Marshall did not open the attachment because she did not recognize the email address of the sender. She received a hard copy of the letter on November 5, 2007, after a lawsuit had already been filed. The letter demanded that Marshall cease and desist from defaming the companies by characterizing them as "phishing" enterprises or "scams." It claimed that these and other statements were actionable under "numerous legal causes of action," including "libel, defamation, and tortious interterference with business contracts and business relationships." The letter further requested that Marshall remove all references on her site to any of the ten companies, and advised her that suit would be filed if she did not comply by 5pm the next day.

On October 31, counsel also sent a draft copy of the complaint, which was filed in federal court in Florida the next day. (For more information on the related lawsuit, please see the CMLP database entry, Internet Solutions v. Marshall).

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

CMLP Notes: 

User submitted; adapted from submission through threat form

Jurisdiction: 

Jankovic v. International Crisis Group

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

07/15/2004

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Milan Jankovic (aka Philip Zepter); Fieldpoint B.V.; United Business Activities Holding

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

International Crisis Group; James Lyon

Type of Party: 

Individual
Large Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Columbia; United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit

Case Number: 

1:04 CV 01198 (RBW); No. 06-7095

Legal Counsel: 

Amy L. Neuhardt , Jonathan L. Greenblatt, Cynthia P. Abelow

Publication Medium: 

Email
Print

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)

Description: 

Milan Jankovic, aka Philip Zepter, along with two of his businesses, Fieldpoint B.V. and United Business Activities Holding, filed suit against International Crisis Group (ICG), claiming defamation, false light invasion of privacy, and tortious interference with business expectancy. Non-profit ICG publishes newsletters, reports, and other documents aimed at influencing policymakers worldwide, apparently focusing on the prevention of armed conflict. Zepter's claims arose from ICG documents -- two reports and an e-mail -- that accused Zepter and his business ventures of improper ties to deceased Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic.

On May 1, 2006, the district court dismissed plaintiffs' claims as to the e-mail and one of the reports (“Report 141”) because the statute of limitations had run. It dismissed the claims involving the other document (“Report 145”) as to Zepter's businesses because the report did not concern them and as to Zepter himself because the disputed statements were not defamatory as a matter of law. Plaintiffs amended their complaint to remove ICG employee James Lyon, who had sent the disputed e-mail, after the District Court found that Lyon's presence in the case destroyed diversity for the purposes of jurisdiction.

On July 24, 2007, the United States Court of Appeals upheld the district court's finding that the case in its original form failed due to lack of jurisdiction over Lyons. It also upheld the dismissal of all claims relating to the e-mail and Report 141 due to the statute of limitations, as well as Zepter's businesses' claims arising from Report 145.

However, the Court of Appeals held that Zepter had established a prima facie defamation case regarding certain statements in Report 145. The opinion discussed three disputed portions of Report 145 separately. It affirmed the dismissal of the claims as to the first portion, which had implicated another Zepter venture -- Zepta Banka -- but not Zepter himself. Due to the size and scope of Zepter's business enterprises, spanning more than 50 countries on five continents, the court found that statements regarding Zepta Banka did not concern Zepter.

According to the court, the second statement in Report 145 could give the impression that Zepter was a “crony” of Milosevic and thus was sufficient to establish a prima facie case of defamation. Though the Court of Appeals did not discuss them, it revived plaintiffs' false light and tortious interference claims as to the second statement in Report 145.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of the claims regarding the third statement in Report 145 because the statement referred to a former Zepter employee rather than Zepter himself.

The net result was that all claims against ICG were dismissed except for those involving the second statement from Report 145, which were remanded to the district court. ICG raised a number of defenses not reached by the district court or on appeal -- Opinion and Fair Comment Protection, the Fair Report Privilege, the Neutral-Reportage Doctrine -- which will be considered in the lower court.

Update:

7/24/2007 - Case remanded to district court.

5/13/2008 - ICG filed memorandum supporting its motion to dismiss first amended complaint.

5/23/2008 - Jankovic filed memorandum in opposition to ICG's motion to dismiss.

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

Status updated on 6/5/2008 (AAB)

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Alvis Coatings, Inc. v. Does

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

07/30/2004

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Alvis Coatings, Inc.

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Does 1-10

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Charlotte Division

Case Number: 

3:04-cv-00374-CH

Legal Counsel: 

John T. Hermann

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

Alvis Coatings sells coating products, including "Alvis Spray-on Siding". The company filed a John Doe lawsuit in 2004 in North Carolina federal court against ten anonymous defendants, alleging that certain anonymous postings about its products violated the Lanham Act and North Carolina state laws prohibiting unfair and deceptive trade practices, unfair competition and defamation.

According to court documents, Alvis alleged that, in 2003, internet user(s) posted sixteen messages on home improvement message boards, including bobvila.com and oldhouse.com, about Alvis's products. The unknown poster(s) allegedly commented that Alvis Spray-on Siding was "Duron's siding in a can, privately labelled by Alvis" and that Alvis's officers and dealers were "criminals."

After filing suit, Alvis successfully obtained an order to conduct limited and expedited discovery and thereby obtained from the operators of bobvila.com and oldhouse.com the identity of two relevant ISPs, Roadrunner and Comcast.

When subpoeanaed by Alvis, Comcast refused to provide Alvis with information identifying its customer, and the anonymous poster, under the John Doe moniker, filed a motion to quash the subpoena. He claimed that the subpoena threatened his First Amendent right to anonymous speech.

On December 2, 2004, the Court denied the defendant's motion to quash, applying the "prima facie" standard from Doe v. 2TheMart.com, 140 F. Supp.2d 1088 (W.D. Wash. 2001) (holding that the plaintiff is entitled to discover the defendant's identity when it can establish a prima facie case against him). The Court held that Alvis was entitled under this standard to compell Comcast to produce information relating to the Doe defendants' identity.

Update:

2/28/06 - Court dismissed the case due to plaintiffs' failure to prosecute the case.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

eAppraiseIT v. Crowley

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

06/19/2007

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

eAppraiseIT, LLC

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Pamela Crowley

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Circuit Court of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit in and for Brevard County

Case Number: 

05-2007-CA-027976

Legal Counsel: 

Eric A. Lanigan

Publication Medium: 

Forum
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Injunction Denied
Withdrawn

Description: 

Crowley runs www.mortgagefraudwatchlist.org, a part-free, part-subscription database of mortgage fraud reports and information. She also is a moderator of AppraisersForum.com, a message board for mortgage appraisers. Crowley wrote posts on both sites criticizing eAppraiseIT, a mortgage appraisal management company. Her posts allegedly accused eAppraiseIT of demanding that appraisers engage in “unethical” activities and reported that she had received information showing that eAppraiseIT tampers with electronic appraisal documents. Her posts also allegedly urged appraisers not to send any documents to the company, suggested that eAppraiseIT pressures individual appraisers to manipulate appraisal values, and indicated that evidence of eAppraiseIT's inappropriate actions had been delivered to law enforcement and regulatory bodies.

EAppraiseIT sued Crowley over these comments in Florida state court, alleging defamation and tortuous interference with business relations. The company filed a motion to enjoin Crowley from discussing eAppraiseIT on her Web sites for the duration of the lawsuit, and the court granted EAppraiseIT an emergency hearing to consider the motion. The court denied the motion at the closing of the hearing, citing Florida appellate case law stating that courts may not enjoin "an actual or threatened defamation." The court earlier (page 10) indicated that the prior restraint doctrine under the First Amendment provided a strong argument against the requested injunction as well.

 

Update:

2/6/2008 - eAppraiseIT voluntarily dismissed the action. Marc Randazza has an excellent post with details.

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

 

Docket available at Brevard court site, though no documents. Better description coming once more documents/news is available. 10/17/07 {MCS}

to-do: create threat entry for letters sent by eAppraiseIt -- see page 6 of the transcript of PI hearing

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Kaplan v. Salahi

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

09/12/2006

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Lee Kaplan

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Yaman Salahi

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

California Superior Court, County of Alameda

Case Number: 

BS06288332

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

$7,500.00

Legal Counsel: 

Pro Se (for Small Claims), Adam Gutride (for Appeal)

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Verdict (plaintiff)

Description: 

Lee Kaplan, a freelance journalist and columnist for FrontPageMag.com, sued Yaman Salahi, a student blogger at the University of California at Berkeley, in small claims court for libel and interfering with business relations.

Salahi's blog, Lee Kaplan Watch, monitored and commented critically on Kaplan's pro-Israel articles and activities. Kaplan claimed that Salahi made false statements about him, including that Kaplan "represents the very worst of journalistic integrity and honesty, violating ethical norms by impersonating others and writing fabricated biographies of various persons involved in campus activism." Kaplan also claimd that Salahi sent letters and emails to Kaplan's potential employers.

Kaplan won in small claims court, and the judgment was affirmed on appeal. Salahi was ordered to pay Kaplan $7,500 in damages. The court did not release an opinion regarding its decision.

Content Type: 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Hargrave Military Academy v. Guyles

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

05/08/2006

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Hargrave Military Academy; Wheeler Baker

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Jerry Guyles; Melissa Guyles; Stewart Guyles

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia

Case Number: 

7:06CV00283

Legal Counsel: 

Jane Glenn (Defendants); Joshua Wheeler, Rebecca K. Glenberg (Amicus Curiae)

Publication Medium: 

Email
Print
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Injunction Issued
Settled (total)

Description: 

After their son was expelled from the Hargrave Military Academy for stealing, Jerry and Melissa Guyles wrote a letter to other parents of Hargrave students, discussing their son's expulsion and their interactions with the administration, and expressing their view that the director of the School, Wheeler Baker, was lacking in leadership qualities. They subsequently set up a website called "HargraveHasProblems.com," on which they posted a copy of the letter and stories from other parents.

Baker and the school sued for defamation, interference with contract, and other torts under Virginia and North Carolina law. They sought, and the court granted (without notice or a hearing), an extraordinarily broad temporary restraining order barring the Guyles from contacting parents or operating the website. The plaintiffs then moved for sanctions against the Guyles for violating the terms of the temporary restraining order and to convert the temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction.

The Guyles appeared in the action through counsel, and the ACLU filed an amicus curiae brief on their behalf, arguing that the temporary restraining order was an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech in violation of the First Amendment.

The parties eventually settled the dispute in a court mediation session. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed to the public. The court never ruled on the First Amendment question.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Health Solutions Network v. Baker

Date: 

01/29/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Health Solutions Network, LLC; Ralph Penton

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Jerry Baker

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Case Number: 

2:07-CV-00369

Legal Counsel: 

Pro se

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Material Removed
Settled (total)

Description: 

On his blog, "Miscellaneous Debris," Jerry Baker accused Health Solutions Network, LLC, of being behind spam emails coming from RXCart.org. Baker explained how he supposedly traced the emails back to Health Solutions and disclosed the name and phone number of Health Solution's founder, Ralph Penton. Penton maintained that he received harassing and threatening phone calls as a result.

In January 2007, Health Solutions and Penton sued Baker in federal district court in Pennsylvania for defamation, trademark infringement and dilution, tortious interference with contracts, and restraint of trade or commerce in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1. The complaint did not make clear exactly how Baker's statements constituted trademark infringement and dilution, or how (or with whom) he entered into a conspiracy in restraint of trade.

In June 2007, Health Solutions and Penton voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice. The "with prejudice" designation leads us to believe that the case was settled, but the record is unclear.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

MLRC

Atkinson v. McLaughlin

Date: 

07/28/2003

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Patrick Atkinson; The God's Child Project

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

James McLaughlin; Roberta McLaughlin

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of North Dakota

Case Number: 

1:03CV00091

Legal Counsel: 

James Wagstaffe, Timothy Fox (Terminated 12/07/2004); Kraig Wilson, Michael Morley

Publication Medium: 

Email
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)
Material Removed
Settled (total)

Description: 

Patrick Atkinson is the founder and executive director of the God's Child Project, a charitable organization that provides health and medical care, food, and education to children in Guatamala. Dr. James McLaughlin and Roberta McLaughlin volunteered for the God's Child Project from July 1997 to March 1998, at which time they were terminated from their volunteer positions. After their dismissal, the McLaughlins made a number of allegations against Atkinson with Guatamalan authorities.

According to court filings, the McLaughlins then returned to the United States and began emailing the Project's board members and supporters claiming that they had been improperly terminated and questioning Atkinson's ethics and character. They subsequently sent additional emails claiming that Atkinson had sexually abused two boys and issued a press release claiming that Atkinson had been arrested on chages of sexual abuse.

The McLaughlins also created a website called "Friends of Guatemalan Children" in November 1998.  According to court filings, they allegedly made statements on the website that suggested that Atkinson misued funds, lied, molested children, and committed criminal acts in Guatamala and the United States, all in connection with Atkinson's previous work for Covenant House, another charitable organization that operated in Guatamala. The McLaughlins also contacted the North Dakota Attorney General's Office concering Atkinson and the Project and repeated their previous accusations of criminal conduct.

In an effort to resolve the present dispute, Atkinson and the God’s Child Project attempted to contact the McLaughlins in October of 2002, to request that they retract their website. At the time the McLaughlins received notice of the letter they were traveling in Argentina and Brazil. On November 7, 2002, an attorney responded on behalf of the McLaughlins and asked what portions of the website were false or misleading. On February 24, 2003, an attorney for Atkinson responded and included a copy of Atkinson’s unfiled complaint.

In July 2003, Atkinson sued the McLaughlins in federal court in North Dakota for defamation and interference with business relations. The McLaughlins moved to dismiss the complaint, and the court denied the motion in November 2004, holding that it had personal jurisdiction over them. The McLaughlins later filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the two-year statute of limitations on defamation claims barred Atkinson's lawsuit.

In November 2006, the court ruled on the McLaughlin's motion for summary judgment, holding that the statute of limitations for a defamation claim begins to run from the day that defamatory statements are published to a website, and that making minor changes or updates to material on a website does not constitute a second publication of the defamatory statements. See Atkinson v. McLaughlin, No. 1:03-cv-091, slip op., at 20-22, 26-27 (D. N.D. Nov. 28, 2006).

The court concluded that Atkinson's claims based on statements made before July 28, 2001 were time barred. The court determined, however, that there was a genuine issue of fact as to whether the McLaughlin's made defamatory statements after that time. See id. at 31-32.

In May 2007, the parties settled the lawsuit, and Atkinson voluntarily dismissed the action.  The Friends of Guatemalan Children website appears to have been taken down as a result of the settlement. The homepage states:

This website and all of the content contained herein has been removed as part of an agreement resulting from a federal lawsuit alleging that the site contained false and misleading information about the individuals and organizations mentioned on this site.  This action is the result of successfull legal action taken by The GOD'S CHILD Project and Patrick Atkinson against the former owners of this web-site.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

MLRC

Fisher & Phillips v. Does

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

06/29/2005

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Fisher & Phillips, LLC

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Doe(s) 1-5

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia

Case Number: 

1:05CV01719

Legal Counsel: 

None

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

In June 2005, Fisher & Phillips LLP, an Atlanta employment law firm, sued 5 anonymous bloggers for defamation, false light invasion of privacy, and interference with business and contractual relations. The complaint did not identify the allegedly defamatory statements with any specificity and did not name the websites on which they appeared.

After failing to identify or serve the defendants, Fisher & Phillips voluntarily dismissed the suit without prejudice in November 2005.

Content Type: 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

The Permanente Medical Group v. Cooper

Date: 

03/15/2005

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

The Permanente Medical Group, Inc.; Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc.

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Elisa Cooper

Type of Party: 

Large Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

California Superior Court, Alameda County

Case Number: 

RG05-203029

Legal Counsel: 

Elisa Cooper (Pro Se)

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Injunction Issued

Description: 

Permanente Medical Group, Inc. and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. (Kaiser) sued fomer employee Elisa Cooper in California state court in March 2005. The complaint alleged that Cooper breached a confidentiality agreement and invaded the privacy of Kaiser patients by posting on her personal blog documents containing the confidential health information of Kaiser member patients. Kaiser asked the court to enjoin Cooper from pubishing this information and to return any documents in her possession containing this information.

Cooper disputes that she published Kaiser internal documents. According to her blog, Cooper found a Kaiser document called the "Systems Diagram" on a public website long after she was terminated from her employment with Kaiser. The Systems Diagram apparently containd names, IP addresses, computer codes, and screenshots that Cooper considered a breach of HIPAA, a federal law that protects the confidentiality of patient health information. In her account, Cooper posted links to the Systems Diagram on her blog in order to bring the breach to the attention of government agencies, but did not host the materials.

On March 24, 2005, the court issued a preliminary injunction barring Cooper from disseminating patient information. On December 19, 2005, the court granted summary judgment to Kaiser on its invasion of privacy claim. On January 19, 2005, the court entered a permanent injunction barring Cooper from the posting health information of Kaiser's member patients and ordering her to destroy all materials in her possession containing this information.

On her blog, Cooper indicated that she would be appealing the ruling, but we have been unable to determine the status of her appeal.

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

to-do: it appears that Kaiser sent Cooper a cease-and-desist letter (see page 5 of Plaintiff's Memorandum in Support of Summary Judgment) - need to create related database entry for the letter

Threat Source: 

MLRC

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

GTX Global Corp. v. Left

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

11/21/2005

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

GTX Global Corp.

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Andrew Left

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

California Superior Court, Los Angeles County

Case Number: 

B192626 (on appeal); BC343334 (trial court)

Legal Counsel: 

Peter Kravitz; Jon-Jamison Hill; Alonzo Wickers

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Andrew Left published a website called StockLemon, on which he blogged about stocks that he considered "lemons." He made comments on his blog that were critical of GTX Global Corp, and GTX sued, claiming that he made defamatory statements about it in order to artificially depress the price of GTX stock so that he could short sell it for a profit. The complaint included claims for trade libel, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, securities fraud under California law, securities fraud under federal law, and conspiracy.

Left successfully moved to strike the complaint based on California's anti-SLAPP statute (Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 425.16). In May 2007, the California Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Left's criticism of GTX on his website was an exercise of free speech, and that GTX failed to meet the heightened evidentiary showing required by the anti-SLAPP statute. It also held that Left was entitled to attorney's fees, including for the appeal.

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

SB Reviewed; to-do: get court documents

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Barrett-Jackson Auction Co. v. Clabuesch

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

03/15/2007

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Barrett-Jackson Auction Company, LLC

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

David Clabuesch; ThumbCo

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Arizona

Case Number: 

2:07CV00561

Legal Counsel: 

Brian Makaric, Peter Boyle, William Ewald, Donald Myles (for ThumbCo); Marvin Ruth, Brian Pollock, Deedee Holden, Scott Holden (for Clabuesch)

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Email
Forum
Print

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

The Barrett-Jackson Auction Company sued David Clabuesch a Michigan probate judge, and his company, ThumbCo, for breach of contract and defamation relating to actions and statements Clabuesch allegedly made concerning an antique car the company sold for him. Barrett-Jackson claims in its complaint that Clabuesch chained the car's wheels at the auction, put up a sign calling the sale void, taped a "grievance report" to the car, and posted defamatory comments on blogs, chatrooms, email lists, and websites stating that the company "quick gaveled the car" and sold it for less than it was worth. Clabuesch denies posting any comments.

Updates:

4/16/07 - Clabuesch filed a counterclaim against Barrett-Jackson for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, and negligence.

6/8/07 - Barrett-Jackson filed a motion to dismiss the counterclaims

1/9/2008 - Clabuesch filed a notice of settlement.

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

DA reviewed

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Pages

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