Retractions and Corrections

Alvi Armani Medical, Inc. v. Hennessey

Date: 

05/19/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Media Visions, Inc.; Patrick Hennessey

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida

Case Number: 

1:08cv21449

Legal Counsel: 

James J. McGuire and Deanna K. Shullman - Thomas & LoCicero PL

Publication Medium: 

Forum
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)
Settled (total)

Description: 

Dr. Antonio Alvi Armani, a California hair-restoration surgeon, filed a lawsuit in Florida federal court against Media Visions, Inc., and its president, Patrick Hennessey, the operators of The Hair Tranplant Network, a hair-loss forum.  The complaint, also filed on behalf of Armani Medical, Inc., claimed that Hennessey and Media Visions posted false comments about Armani and his practice on the forum site and created the false impression that posters on the site were bona fide disgruntled patients, when if fact they were either fictitious persons or undisclosed affiliates of doctors on the site's recommended list of "pre-screened" doctors.  The complaint included claims for deceptive and unfair trade practices, defamation, trade libel, and tortious interference with contract.

The complaint further claimed that the defendants failed to comply with an alleged "industry practice" of hair-loss forums:

It is industry practice and procedure to respond to this kind of posting by having the moderator of the website send a private message to the alleged "patient" requesting they privately submit verifying information to the moderator establishing their identity as a bona fide patient of the doctor in question. If the patient is verified as real then the clinic or hospital responsible for their treatment is allowed to post a response.

Compl. ¶ 50. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the suit, arguing Media Visions was immune from liability for user comments under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (Section 230).  The plaintiffs then withdrew their claims for trade libel and tortious interference with contract. They also filed a response in opposition to the defendant's motion to dismiss, arguing that the defendants were not immune under Section 230 because the defendants themselves posted defamatory comments. 

In a December 2008 ruling, the court denied the motion to dismiss plaintiffs' unfair trade practices claim, ruling that Section 230 did not apply because the claim was not based soley on "information provided by another information content provider."  In support of this conclusion, the court noted that the plaintiffs had alleged, among other things, that Media Visions created fake website content itself, failed to adequately disclose its sponsorship relationship with rival doctors, and refused to comply with the standard industry practice of verifying the identity of posters who have been called into question.

The court granted dismissal of the defamation claim on grounds that the plaintiffs had not complied with Fla. Stat. § 770.01, part of the Florida retraction statute that required them to give written notice of the alleged defamatory statements at least five days before filing suit.

The parties stipulated to dismissal of the complaint with prejudice in February 2009, apparently due to a settlement.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

Alvi Armani Medical, Inc. v. Hennessey, Slip Copy, 2008 WL 5971233(S.D.Fla. Dec 09, 2008) (NO. 08-21449-CIV)

CMF-6/4/09

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

Westlaw Alert

Understanding Your Legal Risks When You Blog or Publish Online

Over the next few weeks I'll be posting about various topics we cover in the CMLP's Citizen Media Legal Guide.  If you would like to read any of the previous "highlights" from the guide, you can find them here

Subject Area: 

Retraction Law in Pennsylvania

Note: This page covers information specific to Pennsylvania and should be read in conjunction with Correcting or Retracting Your Work After Publication, which has general information applicable to all states.

While no court has spoken directly on the issue of retractions and online publications, you have a strong argument that a jury can consider your retraction for the purpose of mitigation of damages under Pennsylvania commonlaw.

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