Defamation

D'Alonzo v. Truscello

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

04/05/2004

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Tracy D'Alonzo; Russell D'Alonzo

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Nora Truscello

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Court of Common Pleas of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia County

Case Number: 

2004 No. 0274

Legal Counsel: 

William D. Kennedy, Edward M. Koch, Michael J. Plevyack

Publication Medium: 

Website

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

On February 3, 2004, the Philadelphia Daily News published an article reporting that two of State Senator Vincent Fumo's staff members had been subpoenaed as part of a federal corruption probe into the dismissals of thousands of parking tickets. The article indicated that staffer Tracy D'Alonzo was among the two aides subpoenaed. That same day, Nora Truscello re-published the Daily News article verbatim on her "gripe" site critical of Senator Fumo, www.dumpfumo.com.

The next day, the Daily News printed a retraction and reported that only one of Senator Fumo's aides had been subpoenaed (not D'Alonzo). Truscello also posted a retraction on her website.

D'Alonzo and her husband sued Truscello in Pennsylvania state court for defamation in April 2004. In February 2006, the court granted Truscello's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case. The court relied on CDA 230, which provides immunity for publishing the statements of others online. This case is significant because the court applied CDA 230 even though Truscello was "active" in searching out, selecting, and posting the Daily News article, whereas most CDA 230 cases apply to website operators who "passively" allow users to post comment or other content on their sites.

Content Type: 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

DiMeo v. Max

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

04/12/2006

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Anthony DiMeo III

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Tucker Max

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal
State

Court Name: 

Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania; United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; United States Court of Appeal for the Third Circuit

Case Number: 

No. 001576 (state); No. 2:06CV01544 (federal trial level); No. 06-3171 (federal appellate)

Legal Counsel: 

Michael Twersky

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Anthony DiMeo III, blueberry farm heir and operator of publicity firm Renamity, threw a New Years Eve party on December 31, 2005 that did not end well -- the district court judge referred to it as "the ... party from hell." Tucker Max, Internet celebrity and operator of www.tuckermax.com, hosts a forum on the aforementioned Web site in which anonymous posters ridiculed both the party and DiMeo himself. DiMeo sued Max for defamation in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, and Max then removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. See DiMeo v. Max, 433 F.Supp.2d 523, 533 (E.D. Pa. 2006). DiMeo added claims for violations of telecommunications-harassment statute 47 U.S.C. § 223(a)(1)(c) and for punitive damages, though the district court dismissed both with little discussion (the former primarily because it was based on a criminal statute that offered no private cause of action, and the latter because it was a legal remedy rather than a claim). The court similarly dismissed DiMeo's motion to amend his complaint, which the court saw as a futile attempt to repair the 223(a)(1)(c) claim.

Max filed a motion to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, which the court granted with prejudice. Following a typical analysis of a case governed by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (47 U.S.C. § 230), the court held that Section 230 barred DiMeo's defamation claim because: a.) Max, as the operator of the Web site and forum, was a provider of an interactive computer service; b.) DiMeo's claims treated Max as a publisher or speaker of information; and c.) the forum posts were information provided by a third-party content provider. The court noted that DiMeo did not allege that Max was the author of the disputed content, and thus it necessarily was third-party content. Because providers may not be treated as the publishers of third-party content under Section 230, dismissal was appropriate. DiMeo appealed the dismissal of the defamation claim and the dismissal of the motion to amend to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Update:

On Sept. 19, 2007, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. In a short opinion marked "not precedential," the Third Circuit followed the district court's reasoning in finding TuckerMax.com to be an interactive computer service that was protected from liability for third-party speech under Section 230. As of Sept. 25, 2007, the case has not been appealed.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Deon v. McMonagle

Date: 

12/08/2005

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Pasquale Deon

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Robert McMonagle

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Court of Common Pleas, Bucks County, Pennsylvania

Case Number: 

200508774

Legal Counsel: 

Saul Krenzel

Publication Medium: 

Website

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

In December 2005, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commissioner Pasquale Deon filed a libel suit against the Town Supervisor of Middletown, Pennsylvania, Robert McMonagle, in Pennsylvania state court. Deon alleged that McMonagle published statements claiming on two websites dealing with local politics that Deon was involved in criminal and corrupt activities.

The record is unclear, but it looks like McMonagle never appeared in the lawsuit and there has been no activity in the case since April 2006. According to the Bucks County Court docket, Deon filed a similar lawsuit against McMonagle in May 2004 (case number 200402986).  Neither case had any recent activity as of June 17, 2009.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

CMLP Notes: 

SB reviewed on 10/10/2007; to-do: further research required; update status. It appears that the suit might have been dropped.

Status checked on 6/3/2008, no new information. MLRC mentioned that in 10/07 the case was combined with an earlier suit by Deon against McMonagle, but I can't find any confirming citation. (AAB)

updated 6/17/09; no new info - CMF

Docket available on Westlaw

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

MLRC

State of Oklahoma (Gene Stipe) v. King

Threat Type: 

Criminal Investigation

Date: 

08/16/2005

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

State of Oklahoma; Gene Stipe

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Harold King

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

Harold King runs the forum site "McAlester Watercooler," which he describes as a forum for citizens of McAlester, Oklahoma to "voice their views about the on-going City events." In August 2005, former state senator Gene Stipe filed a police report alleging that King had published false information about Stipe and his family on the forum (the precise nature of the statements was not disclosed).

The police passed Stipe's complaint and evidence on to the local district attorney, but the district attorney did not pursue criminal charges.

Oklahoma has a criminal libel statute, making libel "punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not more than one (1) year, or by fine not exceeing One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00), or both." 21 Okla. Stat. § 773. "Libel" is defined as "a false or malicious unprivileged publication by writing, printing, picture, or effigy or other fixed representation to the eye, which exposes any person to public hatred, contempt, ridicule or obloquy, or which tends to deprive him of public confidence, or to injure him in his occupation, or any malicious publication as aforesaid, designed to blacken or vilify the memory of one who is dead, and tending to scandalize his surviving relatives or friends." 21 Okla. Stat. § 771.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

MLRC

Suarez Corp. v. Meeks

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

03/01/1994

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Suarez Corporation

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Brock Meeks

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Court of Common Pleas, Cuyahoga County, Ohio

Case Number: 

267513

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

$64.00

Legal Counsel: 

Bruce Sanford

Publication Medium: 

Email

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

Brock Meeks published a story about Suarez Corporation, a direct-mail company, in his electronic newsletter -- the "CyberWire Dispatch." The story included statements that one of the company's internet offerings was a "scam," and that the owner of the company was "infamous for his questionable direct marketing scams" and "a slick direct-mail baron." Suarez sued Meeks for libel in Ohio state court in March 1994. Before trial, in August 1994, the case settled for $64 -- that's right, $64 (to cover Suarez's court filing fees). Meeks made no apology, correction, or retraction, and he admitted no liability.

Update:

August 1994- Suarez Corp. and Meeks settled for $64

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

SB Reviewed; TO-DO: Get more precise dates (3/1/94 is not precise, it was sometime in march 1994)

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Wagner v. Miskin

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

06/01/2000

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

John Wagner

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Glenda Miskin

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

District Court, County of Grand Forks, State of North Dakota

Case Number: 

20020200

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

$3,000,000.00

Legal Counsel: 

Pro Se

Publication Medium: 

Email
Website

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Verdict (plaintiff)

Description: 

In the fall of 1998, Miskin enrolled in a University of North Dakota (UND) physics class taught by Professor John Wagner. Wagner claims that Miskin sent him harassing and sexually explicit email messages and made false statements about him professionally and personally. After UND disciplinary proceedings against Miskin, Wagner filed suit in North Dakota state court accusing Miskin of libel, slander, and intentional interference with a business relationship.

After litigation commenced, Miskin published additional statements about Wagner, his trial attorney, and the litigation on her website (www.undnews.com). These statements included an allegation that Wagner had harassed Miskin with sexually provocative phone calls. Wagner amended his complaint to include claims based on these statements on the Internet. Wagner won a $3,000,000 jury verdict, and the Supreme Court of North Dakota upheld the verdict. Wagner v. Miskin, 660 N.W.2d 593 (N.D. 2003), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 1154 (2004).

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

6/1/2000 date for the action is approximate (sometime in June 2000); to-do: get more court documents; more exact date

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Reynolds v. Falk (lawsuit)

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

02/16/2005

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Jerry Reynolds

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Edward Falk

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

District Court, County of Cass, State of North Dakota

Case Number: 

09-05-C-543

Legal Counsel: 

Michelle Donarski

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Edward Falk operates a spam watchdog website. On his website, Falk indicated that Jerry Reynolds was associated with a number of spamming companies and pornographic websites. Falk also allegedly stated that Reynolds engaged in a pyramid scam and other illegal or dishonest behavior on the internet. Reynolds filed suit anonymously, claiming that the statements on Falk's website were defamatory and constituted intentional interference with prospective business advantage and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The North Dakota court dismissed the case for lack of personal jurisdiction over Falk, who is a California resident.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Atkinson v. McLaughlin

Date: 

07/28/2003

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Patrick Atkinson; The God's Child Project

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

James McLaughlin; Roberta McLaughlin

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of North Dakota

Case Number: 

1:03CV00091

Legal Counsel: 

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

Publication Medium: 

Email
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)
Material Removed
Settled (total)

Description: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

MLRC

Price v. Moore

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

04/20/2007

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Ronald Price

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Richard Moore; Debbie Moore

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

North Carolina Superior Court, Rockingham County

Case Number: 

07CVS746

Legal Counsel: 

Seth Cohen

Publication Medium: 

Broadcast
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

According to a local police report, Ronald Price, a school board member, took a number of campaign signs supporting democratic congressional incumbent, Brad Miller, and put them in the trunk of his car. The county democratic party, which owned the signs, did not press charges, and the criminal matter was dropped.

Richard Moore, an independent newspaper publisher, operator of the Tammytown Tattler and poltical talk show host, made critical statements about Price and the sign incident on his website and television show, allegedly claiming that Price was a "thief" and a "crook." Price sued Moore and his wife for defamation (libel and slander) in North Carolina state court in April 2007, seeking $140,000 in damages.

Update:

1/8/2008 - Price voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit on January 8, 2008.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Sollami v. Sheppard

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

01/22/2004

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

James Sollami

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Thomas Sheppard

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

New York Supreme Court, Orange County

Case Number: 

0007550/2003

Legal Counsel: 

Michael O'Connor

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

James Sollami, the former Town Supervisor of Cornwall, New York, sued blogger Tom Sheppard for libel in New York state court in 2004. Sheppard operates a website called "Cornball-Local.com," which deals with local politics. Sollami objected to 27 statements made on the blog, which, according to the RecordOnline.com, accused Sollami of "a laundry list of misdeeds involving town business."

The trial judge granted Sheppard's motion to dismiss in April 2004, concluding that the statements at issue were statements of opinion protected by the First Amendment. Sollami appealed, and the New York apellate court reversed the dismissal as to seven statements. The appellate court concluded that these statements were capable of a defamatory meaning and that a jury could conclude that they contained underlying assertions of fact. Sollami v. Shepphard, 799 N.Y.S.2d 427 (N.Y. App. Div. 2005). The appellate court sent the case back to the lower court for trial.

Trial commenced in May 2007, but the judge declared a mistrial weeks later when Sollami's lawyer became incapacitated due to a back injury. Retrial is pending.

Update:

4/11/2008 - Jury selection began for a new trial.

Content Type: 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

CMLP Notes: 

to-do: monitor status; try to get underlying court documents from lawyers

Status updated on 6/9/2008, new trial appears to be underway, according to NY docket (search on docket number).  (AAB) 

Rosenthal v. Fein

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

01/26/2007

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Larry Rosenthal; Larry W Rosenthal DDS PC

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Ellen Fein (a.k.a. Ellen Feingertz); Ann McGrane

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County

Case Number: 

101253-2007

Legal Counsel: 

Pro se

Publication Medium: 

Website

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Material Removed
Withdrawn

Description: 

Bestselling author Ellen Fein created gripe site about her former dentist, Larry Rosenthal, on which she made negative comments about his work.

In January 2007, Rosenthal sued Fein for defamation in New York state court.  According to the New York Supreme Court docket, there has been no activity in the case since March 2007.

Update

On 11/19/2007  a stipulation of discontinuance was filed.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

CMLP Notes: 

having trouble finding docket info; to-do: docket and court documents; further research required

Status updated on 6/6/2008, found a docket on WL under Ellen Feingertz (Ellen Fein's real name, according to the USA Today article). I can't find much more than the docket number, and the NY e-records don't seem to have any additional information. (AAB)

AVM- Can't find the info in NY system. Used WL  and noted discontinuance

Jurisdiction: 

Penn Warranty Corp. v. DeGiovanni

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

03/12/2004

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Penn Warranty Corp.

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Ronald DiGiovanni

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York

Case Number: 

06006559/2004

Legal Counsel: 

Pro se

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Penn Warranty contracts with individuals to provide service warranties on used cars. On May 20, 2000, Penn Warranty provided DeGiovanni a "standard warranty" for a used truck in New Jersey, where he lived at the time. DeGiovanni filed a claim under the service contract, which Penn Warranty denied. Giovanni brought a breach of contract lawsuit in small claims court in New Jersey, and the case settled out of court for $2500. He then created a "gripe site," on which he claimed that Penn Warranty engaged in deceptive business practices. The site contained some generally negative comments about the car service warranty industry, the auto insurance industry, and New Jersey judges. More importantly, the gripe site also contained statements that Penn Warranty "cleverly" interprets its standard contracts, that it is a "blatantly dishonest company," that it is a "crooked company," that it "has been ripping of ripping off its contract holders for quite a while," and that it had committed fraud.

Before publishing the site on the web, DeGiovanni contacted Penn Warranty and stated that he would publish the website and expose the company's unfair practices unless it "did the right thing." Penn Warranty did not concede to DeGiovanni's "demands," and he pubished the site. DeGiovanni also sent the content of the site to Penn Warranty's employees.

Penn Warranty sued in New York state court, alleging defamation, trade libel, harrasment, extortion and coercion, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, cybersquatting, and violations of RICO. On DeGiovanni's motion for summary judgment, the court dismissed the defamation and trade libel claims, holding that the statements on DeGiovanni's website were statements of personal opinion protected by the First Amendment. The court dismissed the intentional interference with economic advantage claim because Penn Warranty offered no evidence of any customer that did not do business with it as a result of DeGiovanni's site. The court dismissed the extortion/harassment/coercion claim, holding that the defendant could not be held liable for threatening to do something he had a right to do -- to express his constitutionally protected opinions. It dismissed Penn Warranty's trademark claim, which revolved around DeGiovanni's use of a domain name similar to the domain name of Penn Warranty's website, because DeGiovanni's use of the mark was not commercial and because the domain names were not confusingly similar. Finally, it dismissed the RICO claims for failure to provide any evidence of an enterprise, among other grounds. See Penn Warranty Corp. v. DiGiovanni, 810 N.Y.S.2d 807 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2005).

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

to-do: further research required; get court documents

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Greenbaum v. Google (Blogger)

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Date: 

02/14/2007

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Pamela Greenbaum

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Google, Inc. (dba Blogger and Blogspot)

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Large Organization
Intermediary

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Supreme Court of the State of New York for the County of New York

Case Number: 

0102063/2007

Legal Counsel: 

Paul Levy (Proposed Intervenor, OrthoMom); Tonia Klausner (Google)

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)
Subpoena Quashed

Description: 

The blog "Orthomom" is operated anonymously. Comments critical of Pamela Greenbaum, a Lawrence, Long Island School Board member, appeared on the blog in January 2007. Greenbaum objected to both primary blog content and a user comment.

In February 2007, Greenbaum filed a motion for "pre-commencement discovery" in New York state court, seeking to compel Google to disclose identifying information about the operator of the blog and a user. On February 22, 2007, the parties entered into a stipulation, in which Google agreed to produce the requested information by April 5, 2007, "unless a third party appears and objects to such production and unless otherwise ordered by the Court." The stipulation also provided for Google to deliver a copy of the order to the anonymous operator of Orthomom.

In late February 2007, counsel for Orthomom contacted the court and objected to disclosure. Orthomom then moved to intervene in the dispute and filed a brief invoking First Amendment protections for anonymous speech. The court granted the motion to intervene.

On October 23, 2007, the court denied Greenbaum's request for pre-commencement discovery and dismissed the lawsuit. In its order, the court recognized that the First Amendment protects the right of an anonymous poster to engage in speech on the Internet, and that courts must balance this right with the plaintiff's right to pursue a valid cause of action for defamation. The court expressed a willingness to follow the standard set forth in Dendrite v. Doe, 775 A.2d 756 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2001), in which a New Jersey appellate court held that a plaintiff must produce prima facie evidence on each element of its claim before a court will order discovery on the identity of an anonymous defendant. The Greenbaum court indicated that it was not necessary to decide the precise standard to be applied, however, because "the statements on which [Greenbaum] seeks to base her defamation claim are plainly inactionable as a matter of law." Greenbaum v. Google, No. 0102063/2007, slip op. at 3-4 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Oct. 23, 2007).

Specifically, the court held that statements by Orthomom criticizing Greenbaum's views and indicating that Greenbaum had "no interest in helping the private school community" were not susceptible of a defamatory meaning and constituted protected opinion. The court held further that the statement of an anonymous commenter that Greenbaum was a "bigot and really should not be on the board" was protected opinion. In a footnote, the court noted that because this statement was not actionable, it did not need to reach the issue of whether CDA 230 (47 U.S.C. § 230(c)) protected Orthomom from liability.

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

SB Reviewed; MS Update with documents, 10-04-2007; to-do:

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Citywide Sewer & Drain v. Carusone

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

01/30/2006

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Citywide Sewer & Drain Service Corp.; Salvatore Mangia

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Angelo Carusone; Stephen Carusone

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Supreme Court of the State of New York for the County of Nassau

Case Number: 

0018160/2005

Legal Counsel: 

Mirotznik & Associates

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

A New York news station broadcast a report on Citywide Sewer & Drain focusing on customer complaints. Angelo Carusone, who had worked a summer job at Citywide, made comments on his blog under the title, "Citywide Really Is Shittywide." Citywide sued Carusone and his father, who worked at Citywide, for defamation. In September 2006, the New York Supreme Court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment, holding that the statements on Carusone's blog were statements of opinion protected by the First Amendment.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Donato v. Moldow

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

07/25/2001

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Vincent Donato; Gina Calogero; Eric Obernauer; Lawrence R. Campagna

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Stephen Moldow; John Does 1-40; Jane Does 1-20

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of New Jersey, Bergen County Law Division

Case Number: 

002-L-006214-01

Legal Counsel: 

Skrod & Baumann

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)
Subpoena Quashed

Description: 

Stephen Moldow established the website "Eye on Emerson" in late 1999. He posted information about local government activities, including minutes of meetings of the borough council, planning board and board of education. Public opinion polls were conducted on the site, which included approval ratings of local elected officials. The site included a discussion forum, in which any user could post messages, either with attribution or anonymously.

Unknown users of the website posted comments on the forum under pseudonyms criticizing Vincent Donato and Gina A. Calogero, elected members of the Emerson Borough Council, and other local public officials. One comment indicated that Donato was "emotionally and mentally unstable and in need of psychiatric help, ready to explode and should be on medication." Another stated that Calogero used illegal drugs.

Donato, Calogero and other officials sued Moldow for defamation and other torts in New Jersey state court, claiming that he was responsible for the messages as a publisher. The plaintiffs subpoenaed the Internet service provider that hosted the website, seeking the identities of the unknown posters. The Public Citizen Litigation Group and the ACLU submitted an amicus curiae brief to address the First Amendment and Due Process rights of the anonymous posters who were not represented by counsel in the case. The court quashed the subpoena because the plaintiffs failed to meet the requirements of an important New Jersey opinion, Dendrite International, Inc. v. Doe, 342 N.J. Super. 134 (N.J. App. Div. 2001). The plaintiffs abandoned their claims against the anonymous posters.

The trial court later dismissed the complaint against Moldow on CDA 230 grounds, and the appeals court affirmed. See Donato v. Moldow, 865 A.2d 711, 713 (N.J. Super. Ct. 2005).

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

SB Reviewed; to-do: get more court documents

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Software Development and Investment v. Wall

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

08/11/2005

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Software Development and Investment of Nevada

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Aaron Wall; John Does

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal
State

Court Name: 

District Court, Clark County, Nevada; United States District Court for the District of Nevada

Case Number: 

05-A-508400-C (State); 2:05-CV-01109-RLH-LRL (Federal)

Legal Counsel: 

Ariel Stern, R. Douglas Kurdziel

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

In August 2005, Software Development and Investment of Nevada ("Software Development"), a Nevada corporation in the business of "internet advertising and internet placement optimization" under the name Traffic-Power.com, sued Aaron Wall and an unknown number of anonymous users of Wall's blog for libel and misappropriation of trade secrets. At the time of the suit, Wall was a Pennsylvania resident and a blogger who wrote about search engine optimization on his blog, "SEO Book.com."

According to Software Development's complaint in Nevada state court, a number of unknown persons disseminated information about its marketing strategy and solicitation procedures over the internet. These unknown persons allegedly posted this proprietary information on Wall's blog and other "publicly available areas of the internet."

The complaint also alleged that Wall and his anonymous co-defendants published false and defamatory statements about it and its business over the internet. The complaint did not specify any statements, but an opinion from the federal district court during the litigation identified the following statements that Software Development contended were defamatory:

  • a statement that Software Development is among a group of people that Wall considered "fraudsters and hucksters";
  • a statement that Software Development's website had been "banned by the search engines";
  • a statement that Software Development used "idiotic high pressure salesmen" to sell its "shit services";
  • a statement that Software Development's services "suck";
  • a statement that people who buy Software Development's services get "screwed"; and
  • a statement that Wall would "need to shower at least 6 times a day" if he worked for "a company as dirty" as Software Development.

Wall also allegedly linked to other sites that made disparaging comments about Software Development. Software Dev. & Inv. v. Wall, No. 2:05-cv-01109, slip op., at 2 (D. Nev. Feb. 13, 2006).

In September 2005, Wall removed the lawsuit to federal court. He later moved to dismiss, and the federal court dismissed the action in February 2006, holding that it had no personal jurisdiction over Wall. Software Dev. & Inv. v. Wall, No. 2:05-cv-01109, slip op. (D. Nev. Feb. 13, 2006).

In its order, the court concluded, among other things, that Wall's blog was "passive" despite the ability of reader's to post comments. Id. at 3. The determination of a website's "passive" or "active" character is important in the legal analysis because the more "active" a site is with respect to a state's citizens, the more justification there is for that state to assert personal jurisdiction over it. The court also concluded that there was no evidence that Wall had "expressly aimed the offensive communications at the Sate of Nevada, knowing that the communications would cause harm to Plaintiff in Nevada." Id. at 7. The court never reached the CDA 230 issue.

In its order dismissing the case, the court gave Software Development permission to file an amended complaint, but Software Development did not do so, and the case was dismissed for want of prosecution in June 2007.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Olson v. Brodkorb

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

04/28/2006

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Blois Olson; New School Communications, Inc.

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Michael Brodkorb; www.minnesotademocratsexposed.com

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

District Court in the First Judicial District, County of Dakota, State of Minnesota

Case Number: 

CX-06-006432

Legal Counsel: 

Shawn Pearson

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Michael Brodkorb runs the blog, "Minnesota Democrats Exposted" (MDE), which is dedicated to discussing of the activities, statements, and tactics of Minnesota democrats. On December 28, 2005, MDE reported that Hubert Humphrey, a Senior Counselor for New Communications, Inc., a public relations firm owned by Blois Olson, approached the Colleen Rowley campaign for United States Congress and offered to do consulting work for the campaign, but was rebuffed. Olson emailed MDE asserting that the report was false and that, if Humphrey had approached the Rowley campaign, it was before he started working for New Communications. Olson demanded a retraction and threatened legal action.

In January 2006, Olson and New School Communications sued Brodkorb and MDE for defamation. Brodkorb moved to dismiss, claiming that the lawsuit was a SLAPP. The court denied the motion to dismiss, holding that the Minnesota SLAPP statute applies to speech aimed at obtaining favorable government action and that this was not MDE's purpose. See New School Commc'n v. Brodkorb, CX-06-006432, slip op., at 4 (Minn. Dist. Ct., 1st Dist., June 2, 2006). Subsequently, the court granted Brodkorb's motion for summary judgment, holding that there was no triable issue of fact on actual malice because Brodkorb had followed sound journalistic practices in covering the story, including confirming with multiple sources. New School Commc'n v. Brodkorb, CX-06-006432, slip op., at 3-4 (Minn. Dist. Ct., 1st Dist., Mar. 6, 2007).

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

to-do: break out email threat from this threat (see description above)

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Gregerson v. Vilana Financial, Inc.

Date: 

03/27/2006

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Chris Gregerson

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Andrew Vilenchik; Vilana Financial, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Minnesota

Case Number: 

Civil No. 06-1164

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

$19,462.00

Legal Counsel: 

Boris Parker

Publication Medium: 

Print
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Verdict (plaintiff)

Description: 

Gregerson is a photographer who maintains a website containing his professional photographs. Vilana Financial, Inc. used two of Gregerson's pictures without permission in phone-book and web advertisements, and print advertisements in a local Russian-language newspaper. Gregerson discovered Vilana's use of his photographs and contacted the company asking for compensation. Vilana refused, claiming that it purchased the photographs from a third party (neither party was able to locate this third party during the subsequent litigation).

Gregerson devoted a portion of his website to a discussion of the disagreement over the photographs. On it, he claimed that Andrew Vilenchik had published two of his photos without permission in a series of ads for Vilana. Along with the text, Gregerson posted a photograph of Vilenchik.

On October 4, 2005, Vilenchik's attorney sent Gregerson a letter demanding that the webpage be removed or he would file a lawsuit for defamation.

Vilana initially sued Gregerson for defamation in Minnesota state court on October 24, 2005. Gregerson then filed suit against Vilana and Vilenchik in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota on March 27, 2006, claiming copyright infringement. The Vilana state-court action was removed and consolidated with the federal action, and Vilana and Vilenchik counterclaimed for deceptive trade practices, trademark infringement (including cybersquatting), interference with business and contractual relationships, appropriation, and unjust enrichment. The defendants abandoned the defamation claim.

On August 15, 2006, the federal district court denied Vilana and Vilenchik's motion to dismiss the copyright claim and their motion to remand the state-law claims.

On September 18, 2006, Gregerson moved to dismiss the plaintiff's counterclaims against him, arguing that the counterclaims violated Minnesota's anti-SLAPP statute (Minn. Stat. § 554.01-05). The court denied the motion on November 17, 2006. Gregerson v. Vilana Financial, Inc., 446 F.Supp.2d 1053, 1059 (D. Minn. 2006).

On August 31, 2007, the district court granted Vilenchik's motion for summary judgment, holding that he could not be held liable in his personal capacity for Vilana's corporate actions. The federal district court granted partial summary judgment for Gregerson on his copyright claim against Vilana, holding that there was no triable issue of fact regarding Vilana's infringement of Gregerson's exclusive rights in his photographs, but reserving the issue of damages for trial. It also granted summary judgment for Gregerson on Vilana's counterclaim for trademark infringement and cybersquatting, holding that Gregerson's use of Vilana's trademarks as website metatags did not create a likelihood of confusion, and that Vilana failed to establish that Gregerson had a bad faith intent to profit by using its trademarks in a domain name. Gregerson v. Vilana Financial, Inc., Civil No. 06-1164, 2007 WL 2509718 (D. Minn. Aug. 31, 2007).

Minnesota law provides a claim for deceptive trade practices when a person, in the course of a business, vocation or occupation, disparages the goods, services, or business of another by false or misleading representations of fact. The federal district court denied summary judgment to Gregerson on Vilana's deceptive trade practices counterclaim, find that there was evidence that Gregerson had posted comments on his website, and allowed others to post comments, indicating that the defendants were thieves, members of the Russian mafia, and actively engaged in fraudulent business practices and predatory lending. Gregerson v. Vilana Financial, Inc., Civil No. 06-1164, 2007 WL 2509718 (D. Minn. Aug. 31, 2007).

The court also denied Gregerson's motion for summary judgment on the interference with business and contractual relationship and appropriation of likeness counterclaims. Gregerson v. Vilana Financial, Inc., Civil No. 06-1164, 2007 WL 2509718 (D. Minn. Aug. 31, 2007).

Updates:

8/15/2006 - The federal district court denied Vilana and Vilenchik's motion to dismiss Gregerson's copyright claim.

11/17/2006 -The federal district court denied Gregerson's motion to dismiss Vilana and Vilenchik's counterclaims based on Minnesota's anti-SLAPP statute.

8/31/2007 - The federal district court granted summary judgment for Vilenchik, case dismissed as to him;

8/31/2007 - The federal district court granted partial summary judgment for Gregerson on his copyright claim and on Vilana's counterclaim for trademark infringement, cybersquatting, and unjust enrichment, and denied Gregerson summary judgment on the the deceptive trade practices, interference with business and contractual relationships, and appropriation of likeness counterclaims.

2/15/2008- After a bench trial, the court awarded Gregerson $19,462 on his copyright claim and denied all counterclaims against him.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

McMann v. Doe 1

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

10/06/2006

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Paul McMann

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Doe

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts

Case Number: 

1:06-CV-11825

Legal Counsel: 

None

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)
Subpoena Quashed

Description: 

Paul McMann, a Massachusetts real estate developer, sued the anonymous operator of an Internet "gripe site" about him. The website contained a photograph of Mr. McMann, the statement that he "turned lives upside down," and a suggestion to "be afraid, be very afraid." The website announced that it would soon be updated with specific evidence of McMann's alleged misdealings. McMann claimed that the unknown party operating the website violated his statutory and common law right of privacy, infringed his common-law copyright, and committed defamation. McMann sought to subpoena ISPs to discover the identity of the website operator.

The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts held that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction because McMann asserted only state-law claims and did not identify the citizenship of the anonymous defendant. The court observed that diversity of citizenship between McMann and the ISPs that he sought to subpoena could not bestow subject-matter jurisdiction on the court. The court stated in the alternative that it would dismiss the underlying case for failure to state a claim. Relying on Doe v. Cahill, 884 A.2d 451 (Del.2005), an important case from the Delaware Supreme Court, the court opined that First Amendment protections for anonymous speech requires courts to impose a heightened preliminary burden on plaintiffs seeking to discover the identity of anonymous posters.

The court concluded that McMann could not meet this heightened burden because his complaint failed to even state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Specifically, the court held that the unknown website operator's publishing of a description of McMann's business activity and distributing a publicly available photograph did not impinge McMann's statutory right of privacy as a matter of law. It also found that McMann could not recover for misappropriation of his likeness because the website operator had not used his photograph for a commercial use, but rather for purposes of criticism. The court also held that Massachusetts does not recognize a common law cause of action for false light invasion of privacy, and that McMann's common law copyright claim was preempted by federal copyright law. Finally, the court indicated that McMann's defamation claim was fatally flawed because the statements at issue were non-actionable personal opinions that could not be proven true or false. McMann v. Doe, 460 F.Supp.2d 259 (D.Mass. 2006).

McMann later filed a nearly identical suit in Arizona.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Warren Kremer Paino Advertising v. Dutson

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

04/14/2006

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Warren Kremer Paino Advertising LLC

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Lance Dutson

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Maine

Case Number: 

1:06CV00047

Legal Counsel: 

Gregory W. Herbert, Jon Stanely

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

Lance Dutson operates a blog, the "Maine Web Report." Beginning in February 2006, he published a series of posts that were critical of the Maine Department of Tourism and Warren Kremer Paino Advertising LLC ("Warren Kremer"), an advertising agency that had worked on a Maine tourism campaign. In these posts, Dutson allegedly made statements to the effect that (1) Warren Kremer was violating Maine law by using state funds to promote Maine tourism to people inside Maine; (2) Warren Kremer expended state tourism funds for the purpose of returning internet search results for non-tourism activity, such as pornography and pedophilia; (3) Warren Kremer was "pissing away" Maine tax money; and (4) Warren Kremer had hired a subcontractor who had a conflict of interest. Dutson also allegedly posted "copyrighted material" owned by Warren Kremer (the specific material was not identified in Warren Kremer's complaint).

In April 2006, Warren Kremer sued Dutson in federal court in Maine for defamation, copyright infringement, and trade libel. Warren Kremer voluntarily dismissed the suit after a month, after facing extensive criticism on blogs and websites.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Pages

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