Defamation

Zisa v. Labrosse

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

02/24/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Deborah Labrosse

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court, Bergen County

Case Number: 

L-001824-09

Legal Counsel: 

Ted Takvorian

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

New Jersey police Chief Charles "Ken" Zisahas filed suit against an elementary school teacher in New Jersey state court, asserting that she made defamatory comments about him on a NJ.com, a local news website and forum.  According to news reports, the suit claims Deborah Labrosse stated that Zisa runs his police department by "Gestapo rules" and that she made other comments allegedly intended to damage Zisa's reputation. Labrosse has told the press that she thinks Zisa filed the suit to intimidate her and stifle her criticism.

Labrosse filed a counterclaim against Zisa, asserting that he violated her First Amendment right to free speech and tampered with her forum posts, according to news reports. In her counterclaim, Labrosse also asserts Zisa subjected her to improper surveillance. 

According to news reports, Labrosse filed motions for dismissal and summary judgment on April 17, 2009, but the judge said he lacked enough information to grant the motions so early on in the litigation. 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

Source: NorthJersey.com

CMF - 6/5/09

Jurisdiction: 

HIMSS v. PedSource

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Date: 

02/25/2009

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.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Legal Blog Watch

LB - 06/12/2009

Jurisdiction: 

Suarez v. Mecca

Date: 

08/09/2005

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

NJ.com; PITA01; MRCH0133; Voter 12345 a/k/a Michael Mecca

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Intermediary

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County

Case Number: 

Trial court: L-5546-05; Appellate court: A-0229-07T1

Legal Counsel: 

Steven Siegel - Sokol, Behot and Fiorenzo

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)

Description: 

In August 2005, Ridgefield New Jersey mayor Anthony R. Suarez sued Ridgefield resident Michael Mecca, who had allegedly posted defamatory content to the Ridgefield forum on NJ.com under the alias "Voter12345."  According to court filings, the allegedly defamatory content indicated that the mayor took part in a politically motivated raid on Mecca's house and was present when police showed up at the door to investigate an anonymous tip that he had an illegal apartment.  (App. Ct. Op. 2.)  At a deposition, however, Mecca admitted that the incident had been relayed to him by his friend, Ridgefield municipal prosecutor Marc Ramundo, and had not actually occurred in front of either Mecca or Ramundo.  According to the Appellate Court opinion, Mecca believed that the story was true.  (App. Ct. Op. 3.)

The trial court granted summary judgment to Mecca, finding that Suarez had "failed to show any harm to his reputation, or damages, resulting from the claimed defamatory conduct."  (App. Ct. Op. 2.)  Upon appeal, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, affirmed the trial court's ruling, upholding the grant of summary judgment for Mecca. 

According to NorthJersey.com, Mecca has filed a malicious prosecution suit against Suarez.  The jury in that case found, however, that Suarez's defamation suit was not malicious.  

CMLP Notes: 

Source: North Jersey.com

Note that the threat is the defamation lawsuit, not the malicious prosecution suit filed as a result of the defamation suit.

What is status of remaining defendants???

Priority: 

1-High

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Bihari v. Gross

Date: 

03/03/2000

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Craig Gross; Yolanda Truglio

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York

Case Number: 

1:00-CV-01664

Legal Counsel: 

Russell H. Falconer - Baker Botts

Publication Medium: 

Website

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Injunction Denied
Material Removed
Settled (total)

Description: 

Marianne Bihari, an interior designer, and her company Bihari Interiors Inc. brought a lawsuit against Craig Gross, a former customer of Bihari, and Yolanda Truglio for federal unfair competition, cybersquatting, trademark dilution, common law unfair competition, libel, and tortious intereference with contract. Bihari sought to enjoin Gross and Truglio from using the marks or meta-tags "Bihari" and "Bihari Interiors" in websites critical of Bihari and Bihari Interiors Inc.

In her six-count complaint, Bihari alleges that Gross, after a failed settlement conference arising from a previous business dealing with Bihari, registered the web addresses "bihari.com" and "bihariinteriors.com." Compl. ¶ 31. Bihari asserts that Truglio sent her a facsimile announcing that "the web site 'www.bihairinteriors' was currently under construction" to ensure that Bihari "knew of the harm Gross was willing and able to inflict." Compl. ¶¶ 32-35. Bihari claims that Gross later registered "designscam.com" and "manhattaninteriordesign.com," each of which had identical content to "bihari.com" and used meta-tags "bihari" and "bihari interiors." Compl. ¶¶ 66-68.

These sites purport to "protect you from experiencing the overwhelming grief and aggravation in dealing with someone that allegedly only has intentions to defraud." Compl. ¶ 79.a. Each site has a large animated banner reading “Do not fall prey to Marianne Bihari or Bihari Interiors” and links to "the scam." Compl. ¶¶ 78, 80. Bihari believes that Gross designed these sites to spread "misleading and defamatory information about [Bihari Interiors] and thereby harm [its] reputation and goodwill." Compl. ¶ 65.

The court denied Bihari's request for an injunction. The court held that Gross' conduct did not violate the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act because by the time of the decision, "Gross ha[d] abandoned [bihari.com and bihariinteriors.com] and promised to transfer the domain names back."  The court also held that Bihari would not succeed in her claims of trademark infringement because she could not show that Gross' conduct was "likely to cause confusion . . . as to the affliation . . . or approval of" the defendant's goods or services. The court reasoned that Gross' use of the "Bihari Interiors" mark in meta-tags for designscam.com and manhattaninteriors.com would not cause consumer confusion since "[n]o reasonable viewer would believe that the disparaging comments regarding Bihari's business ethics . . . are endorsed by Bihari." Secondly, the court held that even if Gross' use of the mark in meta-tags caused confusion, the use would be protected under fair use, as they were "descriptive" and " used . . . in good faith." 

After the denial of an injunction, the parties held a pretrial conference on 12/04/2000. It appears that the parties settled the matter, as the court signed an order of discontinuance with prejudice on 12/06/2000. 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Westlaw

Documents not available on PACER. One court ruling is available on Westlaw/Lexis as 119 F.Supp.2d 309.

AVM 6/05/09- changed name to v. Gross as he is the first named defendant. 

Jurisdiction: 

Abourezk v. ProBush.com

Date: 

05/27/2003

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Probush.com, Inc.; Michael Marino; Ben Marino

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Southern District of South Dakota

Case Number: 

4:03-cv-04146-LLP

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

$1.00

Legal Counsel: 

Ronald A. Parsons, Jr. - Johnson, Heidepriem, Abdallah & Johnson, LLP (for all defendants); Kimberly J. Lanham - Janklow Law Firm, Prof. L.L.C. (for all defendants)

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

On May 27, 2003, former South Dakota Senator James G. Abourezk filed a defamation suit against Michael Marino, one of the co-owners of ProBush.com, a website that "offered unconditional support of the 43rd US President, George W. Bush," based on Abourezk's inclusion in the “Traitor List” posted on site.  Abourezk claims that calling him a traitor “is libelous per se under South Dakota law as it accuses the Plaintiff of a criminal act he did not commit.”  (Compl. ¶ 13.)  He is seeking actual damages of $2 million, punitive damages of $3 million, the removal of all references to him on ProBush.com, and a public apology.  (Compl. 4.) 

On April 29, 2005, Abourezk filed an amended complaint that include Jane Fonda and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz as co-plaintiffs, and Ben Marino, the other co-owner of ProBush.com, as a co-defendant.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss based upon a failure to state a claim, asserting that their speech is protected by the First Amendment, arguing that including Abourezk on the “Traitor List” “does not qualify as a form of verifiable, literal falsehood that could lead anyone to believe that the website was stating a concrete, objective fact about [Abourezk].”  (Memo in Support of Motion to Dismiss 18–19.)  This motion was denied on March 14, 2004 by Chief Judge Lawrence L. Piersol. 

The defendants also filed a motion for summary judgment.  According to Todd Epp, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, this motion was also denied.  The plaintiffs filed a motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability.  Before this motion could be ruled on, however, the case was settled and dismissed with prejudice on November 23, 2005.  According to one of ProBush.com's lawyers, as reported by The Associated Press, the settlement amount was $1.

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Associated Press/FirstAmendmentCenter

LB 06/05/2009

Priority: 

1-High

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Spelios and Associates v. Dewalle

Date: 

04/15/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Lorna Dewalle

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

North Carolina Superior Court, Wake County

Case Number: 

09CV007368

Legal Counsel: 

Bill Mills

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Spelios and Associates, a North Carolina dental practice, filed a lawsuit in North Carolina against a former patient, asserting that she made defamatory comments about the practice on the Charlotte News & Observer's website. In its complaint, Spelios and Associates, P.A., asserts that Lorna Dewalle posted comments in March 2009 that falsely stated that plaintiff's staff "blatantly lied and misdiagnosed" her during an appointment. Compl. ¶ 16.

According to the complaint and news articles, the dispute arose when the staff's recommended treatment of Dewalle conflicted with that of another dentist. Compl. ¶ 11.  Spelios and Associates asserts that patients have canceled appointments because of Dewalle's statements.

The Charlotte News & Observer reports that attorney Bill Mills is representing Dewalle pro bono. According to the newspaper, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss the complaint in May that states, "Everything said or written by the defendant was a fair comment by a consumer about a professional licensed by the state of North Carolina and therefore cannot be the basis of a claim of libel or slander." 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

Source: News Observer; Michael A. Lindenberger (via email)

CMF 6/2/09

Jurisdiction: 

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

Tourist Video Casts Complex Light on Florida Defamation Lawsuit

A story mixing the absurd and the tragic comes to us from Florida, where Christopher  Comins, an Orlando businessman, recently filed a defamation lawsuit against Matthew Frederick VanVoorhis, who publishes a wordpress blog called Public Intellectual.  Comins objects to two of VanVoorhis' blog posts from

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Comins v. VanVoorhis

Date: 

05/13/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Matthew Frederick VanVoorhis

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Circuit Court of the Ninth Judicial Circuit in and for Orange County, Florida

Case Number: 

2009 CA 15047-0

Legal Counsel: 

Marc J. Randazza - Randazza Legal Group; Kevin Wimberly, Lawrence Walters-Walters Law Group

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Christopher  Comins, an Orange County businessman, filed a defamation lawsuit against Matthew Frederick VanVoorhis, who publishes a wordpress blog called Public Intellectual.  Comins objects to two of VanVoorhis' blog posts from June and August 2008, which reported and followed up on an incident that occurred in May, in which Comins shot two husky dogs believing they were wolves intimidating a group of cattle grazing on land being developed by one of his business partners. According to the Orlando Sentinel, both dogs survived, one with four gunshot wounds and the other with three.

VanVoorhis blogged about the incident after video footage captured by Irish tourists who witnessed the event appeared on YouTube. The six-minute video shows Comins shoot the dogs while a sizeable number of onlookers express increasing amounts of outrage.  It also shows the dog's owner, Chris Butler, run onto the scene in a frantic effort to save the dogs.  After the video appeared, an Internet backlash of sorts erupted on animal-rights websites and forums, according to the Sentinel

VanVoorhis' first post, called "Christopher Comins: Barbarian Hillbilly Dog-Assassin (w/Friends in High Places), took a highly critical stance on Comins' conduct and used an almost novelistic approach to recreating the timeline of events and the participant's emotions.  VanVoorhis embedded the tourist video in the post.

Comins' complaint alleges that this post "misrepresents the timeline, sequence and facts of this incident to cast Plaintiff in a false and negative light."  It also alleges the post "falsely claims . . . that Plaintiff continued shooting the dogs after their owner entered the pasture and notified Plaintiff that these were his pets."  The complaint includes claims for defamation and tortious interference with a business relationship. 

VanVoorhis'  second post reported more matter-of-factly about the possibility of a follow-up investigation by authorities and, while mentioned in the complaint, doesn't appear to be targeted by the lawsuit.

Update:

9/20/2010 - Comins filed an amended complaint.

11/3/2010 - Comins filed a second amended complaint.

3/1/2011 -  VanVoorhis moved for summary judgment, arguing that Comins had failed to state a claim by not giving VanVoorhis pre-suit notice of the defamation claim as required by Florida Statutes § 770.01.  VanVoorhis also argued VanVoorhis's comments were statements of opinion about a public figure without actual malice, thereby barring Comins' defamation claim.  And VanVoorhis argued that his comments do not show the intentional and unjustified conduct Comins needed to support a claim of tortious interference with business relationships.

6/29/2011 - The Ninth Judicial Circuit granted VanVoorhis's motion for summary judgment,  finding that VanVoorhis's blog is a "medium" for purposes of Florida's defamation notice law, and that Comins had failed to give VanVoorhis the requisite pre-suit notice.

 8/18/2011 - Comins filed a Notice of Appeal to the Florida District Court of Appeal for the Fifth District. In his subsequent appellant brief, Comins argued that VanVoorhis is a non-media defendant for purposes of Florida's defamation notice law, and thus should not qualify for such a notice requirement. Comins further argued that even if VanVoorhis did qualify for pre-suit notice, he waived such benefit by remaining anonymous and evading initial contact.

11/14/2012 - VanVoorhis filed an answer brief and cross-appeal brief. In his brief, VanVoorhis argues that the court correctly interpreted the defamation notice law, and argued that the claim against VanVoorhis must fail because the statements are opinion, Comins cannot prove actual malice, and Comins cannot prove any damages stemming from VanVoorhis's statements. VanVoorhis further argued that the tortious interference claim was a hidden defamation claim and should fail for the same reasons that the defamation claim should fail.

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

AFS - made edits including DCA-level material 11/27/2012

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Remove Your Content v. Does

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

03/02/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Does 1-20

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas

Case Number: 

3:09-cv-00393-O

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Email
Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Remove Your Content LLC, which bills itself as a "targeted adult content removal service," filed suit in federal district court in Texas against 20 unnamed defendants for defamation, business disparagement, tortious interference, assault, and trademark infringement.

Remove Your Content's claims stem from a series of anonymous blog posts (on the now-defunct websites ericgreensuck.blogspot.com and removeyourcontent.blogspot.com), forum comments (NSFW), and emails directed at Remove Your Content and its owner, Eric Green. According to the Complaint, the complained-of communications contain both physical threats against Mr. Green ("We tried to pay a visit to you dude," Complaint Ex. 1 and "Either quite (sic) bothering all these sites and blogs or will (sic) take the bet and nuke you with an early Christmas present," Complaint ¶7), and false and defamatory statements about Remove Your Content's business practices ("He gets paid by other sites (sic) owners to take down pirated content. However he does it in a totally illegal matter (sic)," Complaint Ex. 2 and "Most of his DMCA (sic) are not legid (sic) because he would reported (sic) unlicensed material or matrial (sic) he doesn't even own (sic) its copyright," Complaint Ex. 2).

Remove Your Content seeks exemplary damages and attorneys' fees in excess of $100,000, as well as preliminary and permanent injunctions barring the defendants from contacting Plaintiff's place of business, employees, and clients, and from making false and defamatory statements about Plaintiff and Plaintiff's employees. Further, Remove Your Content has indicated its intent to seek discovery to uncover the identities of Does 1-20 ("Plaintiff now sues in order to discovery and verify the identities of the Defendants and recover damages." Complaint ¶11)

The blogs involved --  ericgreensuck.blogspot.com and removeyourcontent.blogspot.com -- have been removed, and cached copies are no longer available on Google.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Threat Source: 

Westlaw Alert

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Westlaw Alerts

KAI - 6/3/09

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

Mason v. Grey

Date: 

01/10/2006

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Matthew Grey; Rick Gay; Kasia Gay; Riverside School District and Does 1 through 25

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
School

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of California, Riverside County

Case Number: 

No. RIC443002

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

$75,000.00

Legal Counsel: 

Fred J. Knez - Law Offices of Fred J. Knez (for Matthew Grey, Rick and Kasia Gay); John W. Marshall and Lisa V. Todd - Thompson & Colegate LLP (for Riverside Unified School District)

Publication Medium: 

Social Network

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

Tedd W. Mason, a high school football player, filed a lawsuit against his teammate and MySpace.com user, Matthew Grey, for battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, public disclosure of private facts, invasion of privacy, false light, and defamation.  Grey allegedly punched Mason. Mason brought claims of defamation and other speech torts over Grey’s alleged discussion of Mason’s health on Grey’s MySpace.com page. Mason also brought suit against Grey’s parents, Rick and Kasia Gay, and the Riverside Unified School District.

According to Mason's complaint, he asserts that Grey, without warning, struck Mason with “a minimum of six punches to the face and head” on January 4, 2005 in the North High football team room.  Following this incident, the Riverside Unified School District allegedly mandated that Grey satisfy an "Anger Management Requirement."  Mason also contends that Grey sent him a written apology. Mason’s eight-count complaint  alleges that on or about August 3, 2005, Grey, after completing his Anger Management course, posted a message on his public page on myspace.com, a post that reads in part “FUCK TEDD . . .  I found out that im inelligable [sic] today and for some reason Tedd Mason is in need of MRI for his ‘severe headaches’ and yet he can still go full speed at practice everyday. Odd isn’t it . . .”  Compl. ¶ 47.

Mason claims that this post attempts to expose him “to hatred, contempt, ridicule or disgrace by alleging that [he] is of a dishonest character,” and  “to demonstrate that [he] is a liar, and therefore is defamatory on its face.” Compl. ¶¶ 48-49.

In addition, Mason asserts a claim for public disclosure of private facts: the disclosure of his private “health condition.” Compl. ¶ 54. Further, Mason claims that this “public disclosure was an unfair and inaccurate depiction” and therefore asserts a claim of false light invasion of privacy. Compl. ¶ 62.

Mason claims that employees of Riverside Unified School District “disclosed private facts about [his] health condition to . . . persons not authorized to receive such information, including . . . Matthew Grey, . . . Kasia Gay, and… Rick Gay,” and he asserts a claim of public disclosure of private facts. Compl. ¶ 81.

Grey, Kasia Gay and Rick Gay each answered Mason’s complaint on Feb 16, 2006. They each put forth thirteen affirmative defenses, including failure to state a claim, estoppel, unclean hands, justification, and assumption of risk.

On August 20, 2007 Mason settled his claims of negligence and public disclosure against Riverside Unified School District for $75,000. Kasia and Rick Gay moved for summary judgment on August 24, 2007, arguing that Mason's settlement with the school gave them a right of off set. This motion was denied. On July 21, 2008 Mason settled his claims against Grey, Kasia Gay and Rick Gay for an undisclosed amount.  

CMLP Notes: 

Source: WestClip

Complaint is available on Westlaw at 2006 WL 6142372 (click around the document for other case documents).

Documents found at http://public-access.riverside.courts.ca.gov/OpenAccess/CIVIL/civildetai...

AVM 6/2/09

Priority: 

1-High

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Ascentive v. 1ShoppingCart.com

Date: 

02/13/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

1ShoppingCart.com; Rob Cheng; PCPitstop, LLC; Does 1-10

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization
Intermediary

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Oregon

Case Number: 

3:09-cv-00186-HU

Legal Counsel: 

Christopher W. Angius - Holland & Knight, LLP (PCPitstop, LLC)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

On February 13, 2009, Ascentive LLC, a company that develops software such as FinallyFast to improve computer performance, sued PCPitstop and its CEO, Rob Cheng, along with 1ShoppingCart.com, a conveyer of eCommerce software and ad-tracking services, and ten anonymous posters on PCPitstop’s forums.  Ascentive alleges that PCPitstop, assisted by 1ShoppingCart, purchased search keywords tied to Ascentive’s “FinallyFast.com” trademark on Google and Yahoo!.  The complaint also alleges that false and defamatory statements regarding Ascentive’s software was posted to PCPitstop’s forum by PCPitstop employees and/or third parties.  Ascentive is represented by Steven T. Lovett and Marc Alifanz of Stoel Rives LLP, while PCPitstop is represented by Christopher W. Angius of Holland & Knight LLP.

The six-count complaint alleges trademark infringement, unfair competition, and vicarious and contributory Lanham Act violations against PCPitstop, Rob Cheng, and 1ShoppingCart with respect to the alleged purchase of search keywords tied to Ascentive’s “FinallyFast.com” trademark.  It also alleges breach of contract against PCPitstop and Mr. Cheng for the alleged resumption of trademark-linked keyword purchasing in January 2009, after Mr. Cheng had allegedly agreed to curtail such activities in July 2008.  Finally, the complaint alleges defamation against PCPitstop and Does 1-10 for allegedly false factual statements posted to PCPitstop’s forum.  The complaint alleges that such statements include the following assertions:
  • FinallyFast is a “scam”;
  • Ascentive “promotes adware and phishing scams”;
  • FinallyFast is “very difficult to get off” of a computer once installed;
  • “Ascentive products are known to scare the user with a long list of false positive results” ;
  • “It is likely that these products are cheap knock-offs of well known freeware products”; and
  • Dealing with companies such as Ascentive includes the danger that “the program will actually do your computer more harm than good.”
Compl. ¶¶ 65, 67.

Ascentive is seeking an injunction to prevent:
  • The purchase or use of Ascentive’s trademarks or similar marks or names by PCPitstop, its advertisers, and affiliates in connection with search keywords or any products not authorized by Ascentive;
  • Any conduct by PCPitstop’s advertisers or affiliates that would confuse purchasers into believing any of PCPitstop’s products are associated with or authorized by Ascentive;
  • Unfair competition by PCPitstop, its advertisers, and affiliates with Ascentive; and
  • The publication or posting of false and defamatory statements regarding Ascentive or its products on the PCPitstop website.
Compl. (Prayer for Relief) ¶ a.  Ascentive seeks damages sustained in consequence of the alleged trademark infringement, unfair competition, breach of contract, and defamation.  It also seeks accounting for gains, profits, and advantages derived from PCPitstop’s alleged infringement and unfair competition.  Ascentive is seeking trebled damages under section 1117 of the Lanham Act.

On April 28, 2009, Ascentive voluntarily dismissed its case, with prejudice.

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Dozier Internet Law

LB 06/02/2009

Priority: 

1-High

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Young v. New Haven Advocate

Date: 

05/12/2000

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

The New Haven Advocate; Gail Thompson; Camille Jackson; Michael Lawlor; Carolyn Nah; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Alvin Penn; The Hartford Courant; Brian Toolan; Amy Pagnozzi; The Connecticut Post; Rick Sawyers; Ken Dixon

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Large Organization
Media Company

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia; US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit

Case Number: 

2:00-cv-00086 (W.D.Va.); No. 01-2340 (4th Cir.)

Legal Counsel: 

Robert Douglass Lystad – Baker & Hostetler, LLP

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

The warden of a Virginia prison sued two Connecticut newspapers for libel in a Virginia court, asserting that they published defamatory articles about him on their websites. In his complaint, Young asserted the newspapers implied he was racist and that he encouraged guards to abuse inmates. Compl. ¶ 7.

On Oct. 4, 2000, the New Haven Advocate and the Hartford Courant filed motions to dismiss the suit on the grounds that a Virginia court cannot exercise personal jurisdiction over Connecticut newspapers. The United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia denied the motion, stating the court could exercise jurisdiciton under Virginia law because the "defendants' Connecticut-based Internet activities constituted an act leading to an injury to the plaintiff in Virginia."

The newspapers appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which reversed the lower court's decision. In its opinion, the court said the Connecticut newspapers could not constitutionally be subject to jurisdiction in a Virginia court because "they did not manifest an intent to aim their websites or the posted articles at a Virginia audience."

The United States Supreme Court declined to hear Young's appeal on May 19, 2003.

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Westclip

PACER doesn't have the documents.  Some are available on Westlaw at 315 F.3d 256 (click Full History for others)

CMF - 6/2/09

Priority: 

1-High

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Wilson v. McCollum

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

04/28/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Tara McCollum; "tphorse" on the internet al.com forum; "zjones16" on the internet al.com forum

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Alabama

Case Number: 

CV200901283

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Anika Wilson, a psychiatrist in Alabama, filed a lawsuit against Tara McCollum and two pseudonymous posters on AL.com, the website for the Birmingham News, Huntsville Times, and several other newspapers in Alabama.

According to Wilson's complaint, McCollum sent an email to a third-party in which she defamed Wilson by falsely claiming that she had been "stalking"  McCollum and  "trying to slander" her in the community.  Compl. ¶ 2.  Wilson also alleges in her complaint that two users going by the names "tphorse" and "zjones16" posted defamatory comments on AL.com in February and March 2009, falsely stating, among other things, that she was "responsible for all of that taxpayer money getting stolen" and that she is "diseased and crazy and sleeping with every married man."  Compl. ¶¶ 4-5.

Wilson's six-count complaint includes claims for defamation, defamation per se, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and publication of private facts.  She also leaves open the possibility of adding additional defendants:

Other screen names or defendants may have defamed the plaintiff on internet forums, emails, message boards, blogs, or other computer based communications.   Plaintiff will amend to add additional defendants and specific defamatory matter when discovered.

Compl. ¶ 6.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Erin Stork at Birmingham News

Jurisdiction: 

Inventor of Vibrating Toilet Seat Sues Google Over Allegedly Defamatory Search Results

From the we-aren't-making-this-up-department:

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Henry v. Google

Date: 

05/20/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Google, Inc.; AOL

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Large Organization
Intermediary

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi

Case Number: 

2:09-cv-00099

Publication Medium: 

Other

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Johnny I. Henry, an inventor of the vibrating toilet seat, filed a lawsuit against Google, Inc. and AOL, claiming that search results delivered by Google and hosted by AOL are defamatory.  Henry, who is African-American, asserts that Google's search results include links to, and snippets of text from, sites that contain pictures of him with captions containing a racial epithet. 

In his pro se complaint, Henry states:

The extreme derogatory nature of these web sites have committed a gross and negligible offense, not only to myself but to our newly elected president and first lady, Mr. Barack Hussein Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama.  I believe that without a shadow of a doubt that this type of racist negative behavior is directed at black people as a whole as well as all good hearted people that mean good throughout this country and world.

According to InformationWeek:

Had Henry chosen to use Google with the SafeSearch preference set to "Use strict filtering," he wouldn't have seen the sites and been offended. That's because the sites in question appear to host sexual content. "Safe Search currently applies to sexual content only, not to racial epithets," explained a Google official in an e-mail.  

 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

RSS

Doherty Enterprises, Inc. v. Murray

Date: 

01/01/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Michael Murray

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of New Jersey Law Division - Essex County

Case Number: 

ESX-L-10079-08

Legal Counsel: 

Michael Murray (Pro Se)

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)
Settled (total)

Description: 

Doherty Enterprises, Inc., a large Applebee's restaurant franchisee with approximately 80 restaurants in New Jersey and neighboring states, sued Michael Murray for defamation and trade libel over a critical comment posted to a September 2008 article on NorthJersey.com, the online edition of The Record

The article in question contained an interview with Ed Doherty, the founder and president of Doherty Enterprises. In the interview, Ed Doherty stated that he believes he “treat[s employees] with dignity and respect and provide[s] a great opportunity for them to have a good job . . . . I want the people that work for me never to want to leave me.” When asked what his "recipe for success was," Doherty replied: “Don't lie, don't steal. And treat everybody the way you want to be treated. If you do that, you've lived a good life. . . . It's so simple.” 

Michael Murray posted the following comment:

I find this article quite disturbing with respect to how Ed Doherty represents how he treats people. I am an advocate involved in a sexual harassment case and have arbitration transcripts which demonstrate that women . . . are routinely sexually harassed and that this behavior is condoned by high level management at Doherty Enterprises right up to the top. His General Managers & Area Managers commit perjury, obstruct and/ or [sic] ignore sexual harassment claims with immunity
[sic]. This man and his rhetoric are repugnant and fly in the face of the facts. . . . . Additionally, any reader who has a daughter, wife etc. [sic] working for Doherty are more than likely being subjected to similar treatment. . . .

At the time, Murray, a non-lawyer, was representing his daughter in the arbitration of a sexual harassment case against Doherty Enterprises, in which she claimed that she was sexually harassed by managers and employees of the Applebee’s at which she worked.  In late 2007, Murray had rejected a settlement offer on behalf of his daughter.

Doherty Enterprises filed suit, and both parties moved for summary judgment in April 2009.  In May 2009, the court granted summary judgment to Murray, dismissing all of the claims against him.  The court ruled that certain of the statements -- such as that Doherty's rhetoric was "repugnant" and that others were "likely being subject to similar treatment" -- were "pure opinion" subject to an absolute privilege. 

The court determined that the remaining statements related to a matter of public concern and that Doherty became a public figure for purposes of New Jersey law when he gave an interview with The Record, thus “voluntarily and knowingly engag[ing] in conduct that one in his position should reasonably know would implicate a legitimate public interest, engendering the real possibility of public attention and scrutiny.”  Therefore, the court held that the "actual malice" standard applied. Applying this standard, the court found that Murray had sufficient evidentiary support from the arbitration proceedings "to defeat any claim that these statements were made with the recklessness required."

The court refused to dismiss Murray's counterclaim for abuse of process, finding that factual issues remained about whether Doherty Enterprises brought the lawsuit with an "ulterior motive" to allegedly punish Murray refusing to settle the arbitration proceeding. 

According to one press account, Doherty Enterprises and Murray subsequently settled for an undisclosed amount.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Leahy v. Grasmick

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

05/18/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Stephanie Grasmick; Duke St. Journal, and Does 1 - 25

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

General Sessions Court of the State of Tennessee for Williamson County

Case Number: 

37111A

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Micro-blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Material Removed
Settled (total)

Description: 

Michael Patrick Leahy, author and founder of "Top Conservatives On Twitter," filed a lawsuit against blogger Stephanie Grasmick, Twitter user "Duke St. Journal," and 25 anonymous Twitter users for libel, false light invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and tortious interference with contract.

Leahy, who appears to be handling the case himself, asserts that Grasmick posts on Twitter under the name StephanieInCA and is the operator of Teablogging, a site created "to chronicle the lead-up to the April 15 conservative hysteria Tax Day Tea Parties and to serve as a central repository for low-brow teabag-related sex jokes." His four-count complaint alleges, among other things, that Grasmick libeled him in a blog post on May 13, 2009, in which she falsely stated the he is:

  • a "major tax fraud";
  • a "delusional profiteering creep";
  • an "insane clown"; and
  • a "member of some alien race of Lizard People."

Compl. (First Cause of Action) ¶¶ 1-5.  Leahy also claims that Grasmick and Duke St. Journal repeated these false statements on Twitter.

Leahy also asserts a claim for false light invasion of privacy, although the conduct he complains about is more properly characterized as a claim for publication of private facts: the disclosure of his "residence in Williamson County, Tennessee."  Compl. (Second Cause of Action) ¶ 1. 

In addition to monetary damages, Leahy claims he is "entitled to see the complete records of all Facebook communications and telephonic commuications between Grasmick and her 283 Facebook friends, as well as public and private messages sent by Grasmick to those 469 persons she follows on Twitter, in order to determine the identity, if there is such, of any additional defendants who should be named in this complaint."  Compl. ¶ 18.

Update

May 22, 2009: Dispute resolved by mutual accord.  Leahy reported on his blog that "Grasmick has agreed to remove the false and misleading word from the headline of her May 13, 2009 blogpost which caused me to file a libel suit against her on May 18, 2009. I, in response, have withdrawn my complaint against her."  Grasmick confirmed the agreement and removed the word "fraud" from her previous blog post.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

Google News

Top Conservative on Twitter Takes Critic to Court

Shortly after the election last November, a call went out within the conservative blogosphere to use Twitter to organize conservatives online.  Not long thereafter, Michael Patrick Leahy and Rob Neppell started the website Top Conservatives on Twitter and pushed like-minded conservatives to use the Twitter hashtag #TCOT (the # allows twitterers to

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Colocation America v. Garga-Richardson (Lawsuit)

Date: 

04/22/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Archie Garga-Richardson; Premier Financial & Accounting Services, LLC; Scam Fraud Alert; Does 1-10

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles

Case Number: 

09K08409

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

$1.00

Legal Counsel: 

Pro Se

Publication Medium: 

Forum
Print

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Verdict (plaintiff)

Description: 

In April 2009, Colocation America, a company providing computer server co-location to companies operating on the Internet, sued Archie Garga-Richardson, the founder and operator of ScamFraudAlert.com.  The complaint, filed in small claims court in California, includes claims for trade libel, intentional and negligent interference with economic advantage, and breach of contract. Mr. Garga-Richardson filed a separate small claims action against Colocation in another California court, which was subsequently transferred and consolidated with Colocation's case.

Colocation's complaint alleges that Garga-Richardson, formerly a client of Colocation America, published false statements about the company in writing and on the Internet after a contract dispute arose between the parties.  The contract dispute related to a distributed denial-of-service attack targeted at Garga-Richardson's site, which took down Colocation's network and upstream providers.  According to the complaint, Colocation removed Garga-Richardson from its network for a violation of its acceptable use policy.

In May 2009, Garga-Richardson filed a demurrer (a motion to dismiss), objecting to the California court's jurisdiction over the case.  His filing argues that Colocation America is not registered to do business in California and therefore cannot bring a lawsuit there.  The court has not yet ruled on this motion.

Update:

05/29/2009 - Garga-Richardson filed an answer to the complaint.

06/17/2009 - The court sustained Garga-Richardson's demurrer.  The court stayed all action until 08/24/2009 and indicated: "[i]f proof is filed and served before then of a Certificate of qualification having been issued to Colocation under Corp Code section 2105, at that date and time the 'complaint' of Colocation will be dismissed without further notice or hearing and the case will be transferred back to the Small Claims Court for Mr. Garga-Richardson to proceed on his small claims action [against Colocation]."

02/09/2010 - After a trial on January 17, the court issued an order on February 9 entering judgment in favor of Colocation America on its contract claim and awarding $1.00 in damages. The court dismissed the cross-complaint against Colocation America.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Pages

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