Defamation

Cintas Corp. v. UNITE HERE

Date: 

03/05/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

UNITE HERE; Change to Win; International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Bruce Raynor; Ahmer Qadeer; Keith Mestrich; Elizabeth Gres; Peter Demay; Katie Unger; Stefan Antonowicz; and Does 1-100

Type of Party: 

Large Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York

Case Number: 

1:08-cv-02185

Legal Counsel: 

Irwin Rochman - Tesser, Ryan & Rochman, LLP (for UNITE HERE, Bruce Raynor, Ahmer Qadeer, Keith Mestrich, Elizabeth Gres, Peter DeMay, Katie Unger and Stefan Antonowitz); Robert M. Weinberg, Andrew D. Roth, Leon Dayan - Bredhoff & Kaiser, PLLC (for In

Publication Medium: 

Print
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

On March 5, 2008, Cintas, a Fortune 500 company and manufacturer of uniforms, sued several unions, including UNITE HERE, Change to Win, and International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and several individuals, including Bruce Raynor, Ahmer Qadeer, Keith Mestrich, Elizabeth Gres, Peter Demay, Katie Unger, Stefan Antonowicz, and Does 1-100.  The complaint alleged violations of the RICO Act, trademark infringement, trademark dilution, unfair competition, violations of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, and defamation arising out of the defendants' activities online.  

Cintas claims that the defendants first attempted to interfere with their business and exploit fear of economic loss by disseminating false information through print and over the Internet.  Cintas next alleges that defendants made it clear that their interference would only cease if entered into an agreement with defendants regarding union representation.  

The defendants set up several websites that criticized Cintas, including cintasexposed.org (targeting customers), uniformjustice.org (targeting employees) and notonmytrack.info (targeting NASCAR fans).

On June 20, 2008, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint arguing that Cintas had failed to state any valid federal claims.  In addition, they argued that their actions were protected by the First Amendment.  Specifically, defendants argued that the trademark allegations, including those directed at their website, cintasexposed.org, must fail because their use of the Cintas mark was not commercial and posed no risk of confusion.

On March 9, 2009, the district court dismissed all of Cintas' federal claims and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over its state law claims.  The court dismissed the trademark infringement claim, agreeing that there was no risk of consumer confusion with the use of "Cintas" in cintasexposed.org.  The court noted the obvious critical bent of the website and a disclaimer stating: "CintasExposed.org is an independent website posted by the labor union Unite. It contains criticism and information about the uniform and facilities services rental company Cintas . . . ." 

The court also dismissed the trademark dilution claim, finding that links to the UNITE HERE website, which in turn linked to the UNITE HERE store, did not make the use of the Cintas mark commercial. The court dismissed the cybersquatting claim by noting the defendants were not using the URL as part of a bad faith effort to make a profit.

Cintas filed a notice of appeal in late March 2009.

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Eric Goldman

RPK

Priority: 

1-High

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

David v. Nourallah

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

09/11/2008

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Salim Nourallah

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

116th District Court Dallas County, Texas

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Email

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Material Removed

Description: 

On September 11, 2008, concert promoter Ally David filed a defamation suit in conjunction with Bend Studio, LLC against local musician Salim Nourallah after Salim criticized David's handling of charity funds on his blog. David had been one of a group in charge of scheduling concerts and other events with funds honoring Anju Gill, a young girl who committed suicide in 2006. The complaint also alleged that Nourallah emailed the statements in question to The Dallas Observer, D Magazine, and the Dallas Morning News. The complaint states that Nourallah removed the statements from the blog before the lawsuit was filed. The blog itself is no longer available.

According to press accounts (here, here), on the same day David and Bend Studio filed their lawsuit, the board of directors for the Anju Gill Foundation filed a suit against David and Bend over the disputed funds.

Content Type: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Dallas Observer

 

RPK

Subject Area: 

Digital Broadband Networks v. Does

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

12/01/2003

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Dbbdisfunny; Dalilama; Stock Pick; Smoother 1999; WNSRFR; MrWrightAide; pseeker; Does 1-10

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of New Jersey; Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

Legal Counsel: 

Paul Alan Levy - Public Citizen Litigation Group, Richard Ravin - Hartman & Winnicki, P.C. (for pseeker)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

Digital Broadband Networks and its president Patrick Lim sued seven pseudonymous internet posters in New Jersey state court for defamation over statements on electronic bulletin boards dedicated to Digital Broadband on Ragingbull.com and on general messages boards on Yahoo. The company alleged that the purpose of the postings was to drive its stock price down in order to reap profits through short selling.

Digital Broadband filed a motion for permission to engage in pre-litigation discovery to uncover the identities of the anonymous posters.  In a March 2004 hearing, the trial court granted the motion, allowing the company to subpoena Yahoo! and Lycos, the operator of the Raging Bull forum.  

One of the posters, "pseeker," filed a motion for permission to take an immediate appeal to the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, in order to prevent the disclosure of his/her identity. Public Citizen's Litigation Group filed a brief supporting pseeker's right to appeal. The record is not clear about the result of this motion or what, if anything, happened after the appeal. 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

Dolen v. Ryals (Email)

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Date: 

11/05/2008

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

BustedScammers.com; Julie Ryals

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Publication Medium: 

Website

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Lawsuit Filed

Description: 

According to BustedScammers.com on November 5, 2008, Deborah Dolen, author of several "Do It Yourself" craft books, requested all information about her be removed from their website.  BustedScammers.com also alleges Dolen threatened the owner of their hosting company with legal action.

On December 22, 2008, Dolen filed a lawsuit against Julie Ryals, the owner of the hosting company that hosts BustedScammers.com.  

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Marc Randazza, via e-mail

Priority: 

1-High

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Dolen v. Ryals (Lawsuit)

Date: 

12/22/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Julie Ryals, aka "The Design Shoppe"; Jane Doe Libel Cyberstalker; Mary Joanne Kidd; Jeffery Kidd; Mary Harvey

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas; United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida

Case Number: 

4:08-cv-03708; 8:09-CV-2120

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

$6,300.00

Legal Counsel: 

Kent Rowald (for Julie Ryals, Mary Joanne Kidd, Jeffery Kidd, and Mary Harvey)

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

On December 22, 2008, Deborah Dolen, author of several "Do It Yourself" craft books, sued Julie Ryals and an unknown poster, listed on the complaint as "Jane Doe Libel Cyberstalker," for negative statements about Dolen that appeared on BustedScammers.com.  Dolen, acting pro se, alleged internet fraud, cyberstalking, libel, defamation, and disparagement. She requested a temporary injunction shutting down Ryals' servers hosting The Design Shoppe.com and BustedScammers.com, as well as $100,000 for each "violation."

On January, 21, 2009, Dolen filed an amended complaint which added Mary Joanne Kidd, Jeffery Kidd, and Mary Harvey as defendants alleging that Mary Kidd was the co-owner of BustedScammers.com and that Jeff Kidd and Harvey committed libel through chat room activity.  Dolen also added counts of trade libel and copyright infringement.  

On February 18, 2009, Ryals filed an answer and counterclaims as well as a motion for summary judgment.  Ryals' answer denied that she had any ownership interest in BustedScammers.com, and her counterclaims alleged that Dolen defamed and slandered her on Topix.com.  Ryals' requested an injunction preventing Dolen from contacting her or posting information about her.  Ryals also alleges that Dolen is cybersquatting on JulieRyals.com and requests transfer of the domain name to her. The Kidds and Harvey submitted substantially similar answers, counterclaims, and motions for summary judgment.  

On February 27, 2009, the court determined Dolen's current claims may be adversely affected by her bankruptcy matter, and the court stayed the case until bankruptcy proceedings concluded.  The court lifted the stay and reinstated the defendants' claims against Dolen in September 2009.

On September 17, 2009, Kent Rowald, the defendants' lawyer, filed a third-party complaint against Dolen, claiming that Dolen had defamed him. The court severed Rowald's complaint from the case, and ordered both parties to remove from the Internet all critical comments each made about the other.

In October 2009, the court sua sponte ordered the case transferred to the Middle District of Florida.

On June 17, 2010, Dolen filed a second amended complaint, wherein she made claims of trademark infringement, defamation, false light, and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Ryals. Dolen's new complaint made no claims against Mary Kidd, Jeffery Kidd, or Mary Harvey. Both Ryals and the Kidds filed answers and counterclaims. The Kidds also filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, based on their absence from the second amended complaint.

On October 19, 2010, Dolen moved to be allowed to file a third amended complaint.

On February 24, 2011, the court granted the Kidds' motion for judgment on the pleadings and dismissed Dolen's claims against them with prejudice.  The court also dismissed the counterclaims the Kidds made in their response to Dolen's second amended complaint.  Further, the court denied Dolen's motion to file a third amended complaint.

Update:

April 18, 2011: A jury trial on the remaining claims in the case begins.

April 22, 2011: The court grants cross-motions for judgment as a matter of law, finding that Dolen had failed to present evidence legally sufficient to sustain her claims against Ryals, and that Ryals had failed to present evidence legally sufficient to sustain her counterclaim against Dolen.

April 25, 2011: The court enters judgment in favor of Ryals on Dolen's claims, and in favor of Dolen on Ryals's counterclaim.

May 5, 2011: The defendants move for an award of attorneys' fees, seeking $218,189.10 in attorney's fees and litigation costs.

Feburary 10, 2012: A magistrate judge issues a report and recommendation that the defendants be awarded $6,300 in attorney's fees, identifying twelve frivolous motions filed by the plaintiff. The magistrate rejects the defendants' argument for further fees and costs.

March 22, 2012: The court adopts the magistrate's report and recommendation, and orders the entry of judgment in favor of the defendants for 6,300.

March 23, 2012: Judgment enters consistent with the March 22 order.

CMLP Notes: 

Front page of BustedScammers implies that there was an e-mail threat too.  Worth contacting Ryals if possible to find out more.

Blogger with knowledge who offers to help: Dustin Cagnina 708-209-1746.

Source: Marc Randazza, via e-mail

GSPENCE COMMENTS UNPUBLISHED FOR VIOLATION OF COMMUNITY GUIDELINES (PERSONAL ATTACKS; FALSE CHARACTERIZATION OF THE COURT PROCEEDINGS) .  PLEASE DO NOT PUBLISH.

Priority: 

1-High

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Eppley v. Iacovelli

Date: 

03/30/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Lucille Iacovelli

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana

Case Number: 

1:09-cv-00386

Legal Counsel: 

Lucille Iacovelli - Pro Se

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Email
Forum
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Injunction Issued

Description: 

On March 30, 2009, Dr. Barry Eppley, a plastic surgeon in the Indianapolis area, filed a lawsuit against former patient, Lucille Iacovelli.  The complaint included claims for defamation, trade disparagement, harassment, false designations and descriptions of fact, and false light publicity based on webpages, videos, and postings Iacovelli allegedly made regarding her past surgery experience with Eppley.  Eppley also asked for a temporary restraining order prohibiting Iacovelli from carrying out or writing about an alleged plan to commit suicide and publicize it in order to destroy his career. 

The court granted a temporary restraining order preventing Iacovelli from publishing anything related to a suicide attempt, her prior treatment by Eppley, or commenting on Eppley's role in preventing the suicide attempt the same day. Following a hearing on April 8, 2009, U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Barker issued an order extending the temporary restraining order until April 18. 

On April 9, 2009, Iacovelli filed an answer to Eppley's complaint and counter sued Eppley, his lawyer Todd Richarson, and Lewis & Kappes (Richardson's law firm). On April 13, 2009, the court accepted Iacovelli's answer to the complaint but rejected her counterclaims as not conforming to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. 

On April 17, the court granted Eppley's motion for a preliminary injunction.  The court found that Iacovelli's speech would not likely be protected by the First Amendment due to its defamatory and likely false nature as well as its lack of advancement of debate on a public issue. 

The preliminary injunction prevents Iacovelli or anyone in active concert with her from posting on the internet or emailing about Eppley, Eppley's attorneys, Lewis & Kappes, or referencing Eppley's actions with respect to Iacovelli's suicide threats.  It also requires her to remove any information about Eppley from any websites she controls, remove www.eppleyplasticsurgerysucks.com, www.barryeppleyplasticsurgeon.com, and www.lewis-kappessucks.com in their entirety, and refrain from registering any new websites that use Eppley's name.  It also requires her to remove any links to the listed websites until the conclusion of the lawsuit. 

CMLP Notes: 

Source: IBJ.com

RPK

Priority: 

1-High

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Duran v. Andrew

Date: 

09/15/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Christopher Andrew; Tom Nishio; Does 1-100

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri

Case Number: 

4:08CV1400

Legal Counsel: 

David Corwin and Vicki Little - Devereux Murphy

Publication Medium: 

Email

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On September 15, 2008, Dan Duran, CEO of the U.S. Soybean Export Council, sued two former Council employees and several anonymous Internet users over emails that allegedly defamed him.  Christopher Andrew, one of the former employees, allegedly sent several emails containing defamatory statements about Duran and manufactured a photo of Duran "posing in a friendly manner with Kim Jong-Il, a dictator of an enemy country."

Duran's original complaint sought a permanent injunction against the defendants preventing them from "[p]ublishing and re-publishing by any means, including electronic mail, any further defamatory, scandalous, desultory, false statements concerning Plaintiff, Plaintiff’s personal life, and Plaintiff’s professional activities."  Duran also sought damages in excess of $75,000.

On October 6, 2008, Andrew made a motion to dismiss the complaint arguing that Duran had not properly filed service of process and failed to state a valid claim.  The court found that Duran had properly stated claims for defamation and injurious falsehood and that Andrew's statements were not opinion protected by the First Amendment.  The court did find that the doctored photos "clearly represent[ed] imaginative expression, rather than assertions of objective fact" and dismissed the claims related to its publication.  

In mid April 2009, Duran made a motion to dismiss the Doe defendants and Tom Nishio.

Update:

5/20/2009 - Jury trial scheduled to begin April 5, 2010. 

 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Threat Source: 

RSS

CMLP Notes: 

Note: It appears that Andrew (and maybe others) were fired from their jobs for the same or related e-mails as those at issue in the case.  Whoever edits this entry should look into whether the firings merit a separate threat entry. {MCS}

Source: Volokh Conspiracy

 

RPK

updated 6/18/09 - CMF

FORBA v. Hagan

Date: 

11/14/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Debbie Hagan

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky (Ownsboro)

Case Number: 

4:08-cv-00137-JHM

Legal Counsel: 

Pro se

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Injunction Issued
Withdrawn

Description: 

FORBA Holdings, a dental practice management company, sued blogger Debbie Hagan after she posted internal FORBA documents on her blog, Dentist the Menace, which covers alleged misconduct in the dental profession.

According to the complaint, Google search crawlers indexed a password-protected FTP site hosting FORBA internal documents, and Hagan was able to obtain copies of these documents through a Google search for the term "forbainfo.com." The documents in question included marketing materials, recruitment strategy information, spreadsheets and facility information lists, as well as internal PowerPoint presentations. Hagan allegedly provided links to certain of the FORBA documents and posted copies of others for viewing and download.  FORBA contended that, by posting these materials, Hagan misappropriated trade secrets embodied in the confidential documents and infringed its copyrights in the PowerPoint presentations.  

FORBA also alleged that Hagan defamed the company on her blog by falsely claiming that FORBA engaged in "barbaric back alley dentistry and abusing children children in the process."

After filing suit, FORBA moved for a preliminary injunction barring Hagan from publishing its confidential and copyright-protected materials.  In November 2008, Hagan consented to the entry of a permanent injunction prohibiting her from publishing or posting "any internal and/or copyrighted documents or other information of FORBA obtained, directly or indirectly, through access to the FORBA FTP Site . . . and/or . . . any other internal and/or confidential FORBA documents or information. . . ."

FORBA subsequently dismissed its defamation claim voluntarily, and later moved to voluntarily dismiss the entire case without prejudice, leaving the consent injunction in n full force and effect. The court granted the motion in April 2009, dismissing the case and leaving the consent injunction in place. 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

2-Normal

CMLP Notes: 

Via Marc Randazza

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

User Feedback

News Links

I sent this list out to the CMLP's team of intrepid bloggers to pique their interest, but with things being a bit slow around the office today, I figured I'd avoid the middleman. 

Things that caught my eye this past week:

Subject Area: 

Lesson of "Communist" Libel Cases in Vietnamese Community: Know Your Audience

In the United States after the Cold War, saying that someone is a Communist may not have the same sting that it did during the the decades of tension between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and their respective allies.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Too Much Media, LLC v. Hale

Date: 

06/09/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Shellee Hale

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of New Jersey, Monmouth County, New Jersey

Case Number: 

L2736-08

Legal Counsel: 

John Prindiville - Barry & Prindiville; Jeffrey Pollock, Joe Schramm - Fox Rothschild LLP

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Too Much Media, LLC ("TMM"), a software company that services the online adult entertainment business, sued Washington-based blogger Shellee Hale in New Jersey state court in June 2008, after she posted comments about a security breach in TMM's software product on Oprano.com, an online forum for those in the online adult entertainment industry.  The complaint includes claims for defamation, false light invasion of privacy, and trade libel. 

In March 2009, Hale moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim, arguing that counsel for TMM had withdrawn all claims but "slander per se" in a January hearing, and that slander only applies to oral statements.  TMM opposed the motion, arguing that it had not limited its claim to slander in the January hearing, and that it can recover for libel without showing proof of pecuniary loss. 

Also in March 2009, Hale filed a separate motion asking the court to rule that New Jersey's journalist shield law protected her from having to testify about the identity of her confidential sources in her upcoming deposition. In a certification accompanying the motion, Hale testified that she reports on Internet security issues through several blogs (www.camandago.com; www.shelleehale.net/blog; and www.shelleeland.com), as well as on electronic bulletin boards and websites, and that she has developed relationships with confidential sources as part of her reporting and investigative processes.  TMM opposed the motion, arguing that Hale is not a "newsperson" within the meaning of the shield law.

The court held hearings on these motions on April 17 and April 24, 2009 and reserved decision for a later date.

UPDATE:

7/02/2009- The court ruled that Hale's conduct was not protected by shield laws and that the defamation suit against her may continue. 

07/22/2009 - Hale filed a motion for reconsideration

09/2009 - Hale appealed the trial court's ruling.

04/22/10 - The appeals court ruled that Hale was not entitled to protection under New Jersey's shield law because she was not working as a journalist or a reporter when she posted comments about Too Much Media LLC, according to NJ.com.

06/7/2011 - The Supreme Court of New Jersey affirmed and remanded for further proceedings.  It held that New Jersey's shield law requires a party attempting to invoke the law to establish (1) a connection to news media; (2) a purpose to gather, procure, transmit, compile, edit, or disseminate news; and (3), that the materials sought were obtained in the course of pursuing professional newsgathering activities.  The Court noted that "news media" were defined to include both “newspapers, magazines, press associations, news agencies, wire services, radio, [and] television” and “other similar . . . means of disseminating news to the general public."  While the Court recognized that electronic communication could, in certain circumstances, be "similar" to the traditional media listed in the statute, it held that the online message board used by Hale was more a forum for conversation than a medium for dissemination of news and therefore did not satisfy the statute.

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

7/5/09 - updated AVM, added the ruling denying shield law protection

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Demings v. Harris

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Date: 

04/17/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Ezell "Easy" Harris

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On April 17, 2009, counsel for Orlando Police Chief Val Demings sent a letter threatening legal action against Ezell "Easy" Harris, publisher of Valdemings.com, a website that criticizes her performance in office. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the letter accused Harris of "'maligning' and defaming the chief . . .[and] violat[ing] the law by using her 'persona' and identity."  The letter demanded that Harris take down the website or face a lawsuit.

Among other things, Valdemings.com features a report on the theft of Demings' service weapon, which was stolen from her vehicle in February and has not been recovered.  It also features an "article on a stolen Orlando police car that was found in Parramore and a piece on Demings' husband, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, and his policy against media leaks."  Harris says that he will not take down the website and that he is simply exercising his First Amendment rights.  

In comments to the Orlando Sentinel, counsel for Demings discounted the First Amendment issues at stake:

"Truth is not always a defense," Winthrop said. "I hope he [Harris] gets himself a really good lawyer," he said. 

Marc Randazza at the Legal Satyricon (and CMLP) has taken Demings and her lawyer to task for the weakness of the legal claims.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

CMLP Notes: 

updated 6/17/09 - CMF

Jurisdiction: 

Orlando Police Chief v. The First Amendment

There aren't too many elected officials in Flori-duh that I respect. Orlando Police Chief Val Demings, used to be one of the select few. She hasn't done a perfect job, and had a particularly embarrassing incident in which her gun was stolen. Nevertheless, my general impression of her has been that she is competent and ethical.

Not anymore.

Val Demings vs. the First Amendment

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Ecommerce Innovations v. Doe (Lawsuit)

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

07/14/2008

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Does 1-10

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Central District of California

Case Number: 

2:08-cv-04596

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On July 14, 2008, jewelry retailer Ecommerce Innovations filed a lawsuit against anonymous Ripoff Report posters who allegedly made "false and disparaging statements of fact about the [company's] products and services." Ecommerce allleged that Does 1-5 posted the comments as agents for Does 6-10, unknown companies that are competitors of Ecommerce.

The complaint includes claims for defamation in violation of California law and "trade libel" in violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)(1)(B), which ordinarily applies to false advertising claims.

After filing the suit, Ecommerce subpoenaed Ripoff Report in Arizona, seeking the identities of the posters.  See our related database entry, Ecommerce Innovations v. Doe (Subpoena), for details.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Eric Goldman

Jurisdiction: 

$12.5 Million Jury Verdict in Texas Internet Defamation Case

In February, a Texas jury awarded Orix Capital Markets, LLC $12.5 million in damages in a defamation case involving statements published on the cleverly named "gripe site" Predatorix.com.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Orix v. Predatorix

Date: 

04/24/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Super Future Equities, Inc.; Schumann Rafizadeh; Cyrus Rafizadeh; Houman Thomas Arjmandi; Keon Michael Arjmandi

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas

Case Number: 

3-06-CV-0271-B

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

$12,500,000.00

Legal Counsel: 

Timothy F. Gavin, Charles J. Blanchard, Richard A. Rohan - Carrington Coleman Sloman & Blumenthal; Jeffrey W. Glass - Law Office of Jeffrey W. Glass; Jon P. Bohn - Bohn & Aucloux; Julie A Zanutto - Law Office of Julie A. Zanutto

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Material Removed
Retraction Issued
Settled (total)
Verdict (plaintiff)

Description: 

In the course of an ongoing lawsuit, Orix Capital Markets, LLC filed a counterclaim against Super Future Equities, Inc., Schumann Rafizadeh, Cyrus Rafizadeh, Houman Thomas Arjmandi, and Keon Michael Arjmandi.  The counterclaim alleged that the defendants set up a website -- www.predatorix.com -- that published false and defamatory statements about Orix.  For example, Orix claimed that the website accused the company of committing tax fraud and being under federal investigation for violating racketeering laws.  Later, Orix filed an amended counterclaim to add a copyright infringement claim arising from Predatorix's re-posting of a page from the Orix website.

The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which, in March 2008, the court granted in part and denied in part.  The court dismissed Orix's claims for business disparagement, tortious interference, and copyright infringement (notably, the court found that Predatorix's use of the Orix page was fair use), but found that the defamation claim was sufficient to go to the jury.

In February 2009, after a two-week trial, the jury awarded Orix $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages, split between the defendants, except Keon Michael Arjmandi, who was not found liable.  After the verdict, the parties settled the case on undisclosed terms.  After the settlement, the Rafizadehs published an apology on Predatorix, acknowledging that the postings were incorrect.

CMLP Notes: 

Note that the counterclaim is the threat, not the overall lawsuit. {MCS}

Priority: 

2-Normal

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Joyner v. Lazzareschi

Date: 

09/26/2005

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Jerry Lazzareschi; www. socalsoccertalk.com; Domains By Proxy, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization
Intermediary

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of California, County of Orange; Court of Appeal of California, Fourth Appellate District

Case Number: 

05CC10627 (trial); G040323 (appeal)

Legal Counsel: 

Timothy L. Walker and K. Michele Williams - Ford, Walker, Haggerty & Behar (for Lazzareschi)

Publication Medium: 

Forum
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)

Description: 

Jeffrey Joyner, a California soccer coach, sued Jerry Lazzareschi, the operator of the forum Soccertalk.com, and his domain registrar Domains by Proxy, Inc., after a number of allegedly false and defamatory statements about Joyner appeared on Lazzareschi's forum site.  

Joyner coached two soccer teams for teenage girls, and in 2004 he merged the teams causing what a California appeals court called "parental unrest and heated discussion in the girls' soccer community."  The controversy over the team merger spilled onto the Internet and generated over 2000 posts on Sockertalk.com.  According to court documents, Joyner alleged that some of these posts falsely accused him of "financial improprieties," described him as "a cheater and a thief," and accused him of incompetence and "coach[ing] his . . . team . . . into the ground," among other things.  The statements were largely posted by unregistered users of the forum, but Joyner also alleged that Lazzareschi created forum thread titles and "republished the[] statements" on other websites "to lure viewers to [his] WEBSITE." 

Joyner filed suit against Lazzareschi and Soccertalk.com for defamation, negligence, negligent training/supervision, interference with contractual relations, interference with prospective economic advantage, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  Joyner's complaint also contained a cause of action for fraud against Domains by Proxy for permitting Lazzareschi to obtain and register his domain name anonymously.  

The defendants moved to strike the complaint under California's anti-SLAPP law (Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 425.16), and the trial court granted the motion.  On appeal, the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, reversed, finding that the statements did not relate to a matter of public interest within the protection of the anti-SLAPP law.  After the case returned to the trial court, Lazzareschi moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted the motion and dismissed the case against him, ruling that section 230 of the Communications Decency Act ("Section 230") barred Joyner's claims based on third-party content.  Joyner appealed.

The California Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that Section 230 gave Lazzareschi immunity for publishing the comments of his forum users.  The court concluded that Lazzareschi, as a website operator, qualified as the provider of an "interactive computer service" and that all of Joyner's claims treated him as a "publisher or speaker" of third-party content.  The court also ruled that Joyner's claim that Lazzareschi republished the defamatory content on other websites in order to "advertise" his forum was irrelevant because "the view that actively selected and republished information is no longer 'information provided by another information content provider' under section 230(c)(1) is groundless." 

The court also rejected Joyner's argument that, under the Ninth Circuit's opinion in Roommates.com, Lazzareschi lost his immunity by creating forum thread titles and deleting positive posts.  The court indicated that starting threads on topics of interest "is not by itself defamatory" because "positive messages about plaintiff or messages defending him could be and were posted under [the threads]."  The court also found that Joyner produced no evidence that Lazzareschi ever deleted positive messages about him. The court explained that, unlike in the Roommates.com scenario, no evidence -- let alone 'direct and palpable' evidence -- connected defendant to a posting or filtering process that was discriminatory or defamatory against plaintiff."

The case still appears to be pending against Domains by Proxy in the trial court. 

UPDATE: On 08/22/2008, the court granted Domains by Proxy Inc's motion for summary judgement. It appears that the court awarded fees to Domains by Proxy, since Domains submitted a sumary of its court costs on 09/03/2008 and scheduled an examination of judgment debtor on 09/26/2008.

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Eric Goldman

 

RPK

avm 6/12/09

Priority: 

1-High

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Grogan v. Hilliard

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

05/30/2008

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Ralph Hilliard; Joseph Paolella; John Trimarco a.k.a. Jack Trimarco; Jack Trimarco & Associates Polygraph/Investigations, Inc.; Wordnet Solution, Inc.; Does 1-20

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

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

Case Number: 

BC391778

Legal Counsel: 

Joseph Paolella (Pro se); Richard A. Harvey (for John Trimarco and Jack Trimarco & Associates); Bruce Voss & Edgar Johnson - Voss & Johnson (for John Trimarco and Jack Trimarco & Associates); Tim Agajanian (for Ralph Hilliard and Wordnet Solution, Inc.)

Publication Medium: 

Broadcast
Print
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On May 30, 2008, John Grogan filed a lawsuit in California state against Ralph Hilliard, John Trimarco, Joseph Paolella, Jack Trimarco & Associates Polygraph/Investigations, Inc., Wordnet Solution, Inc., and several John Does alleging defamation, invasion of privacy (false light), and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  

In his complaint, Grogan alleged that Paolella wrote a letter to Trimarco which contained false, malicious, and libelous statements.  Grogan also alleged that Trimarco called into a radio show that Grogan was a guest on and made several false and defamatory statements.  Finally, Grogan alleged that Hilliard created two websites, PolygraphPlace.com and TheTruthAboutGrogan.org, and used them to repeat the statements Trimarco made during the radio show, to make additional false and defamatory statements, and to link to other defamatory content.

In June and August 2008 respectively, Paolella and Trimarco filed motions to strike the complaint under California's anti-SLAPP law (Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 425.16).  Trimarco argued that Grogan qualified as a public figure and that the statements involved were statements of opinion.  In August, Hilliard and Wordnet Solutions filed an answer, asserting several affirmative defenses.

In October 2008, the court issued a tentative ruling on Trimarco's motion to strike, finding that Grogan had produced evidence sufficient to avoid dismissal under the anti-SLAPP law. 

The trial is currently scheduled for August 2009.

UPDATE

On or before 5/28/2009, the case settled, according to AntiPolygraph.org and TruthAboutGrogan.org

"The Parties to the Lawsuit filed by Mr. Grogan against Ralph Hilliard and others as entitled Grogan vs. Paollela et. al. Los Angeles Superior Court Case No.: BC391778 ("Lawsuit") has been settled by and between Mr. Grogan, Mr. Hilliard and Mr. Hilliard's Company, Wordnet Solutions, Inc. for an undisclosed amount and that no party in any way admits liability or wrongdoing of any sort and the parties have agreed to settle to avoid the cost and inconvenience of litigation and such settlement shall not constitute an admission of liability by any party".

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

Sent request for documents. {MCS}

avm- 6/15/09- noted settlement but will not move to concluded till i can upload the order

RPK

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

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Speed Skater's Mom Sues Google Over Dead Blogger's Post

Earlier this month, Cherie Davis, mother of 2006 gold medal winner Shani Davis, the first African American speed skater to make the U.S. Olympic team, sued Google, Inc. in Illinois state court, seeking an injunction requiring the company to take down a blog post written by deceased sports blogger Sean Healy.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

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