Defamation

Warranty Automotive Services v. Does

Date: 

04/06/2010

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Does 1-5 and ABC Corporations 1-5

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia

Case Number: 

1:10-CV-1006-JEC

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On April 6, 2010, Warranty Automotive Services Corp. filed a complaint in federal district court against unnamed Does for claims arising out of defendants' operation of a website at www.lifetimewarrantymyths.com. The Complaint indicates that plaintiff believes the defendants may be residents of Connecticut who own or are otherwise affiliated with a car dealership that is a former customer of Warranty Automotive Services, Premier Subaru, LLC of Branford, Connecticut. (Complaint ¶¶ 20-24.)

According to the Complaint, Warranty Automotive Services Corp. sells lifetime warranty services to automotive dealerships, which extend the manufacturer's limited powertrain warranty for new vehicles for as long as the original purchaser of the vehicle owns it. Plaintiff alleges that in January 2010, defendants began publishing a website at www.lifetimewarrantymyths.com that contains a number of false and defamatory statements about plaintiff's services, including allegations that plaintiff "has been guilty of causing 'consumer confusion,' . . . that plaintiff's lifetime warranty is and will be worthless. . . . that plaintiff has been 'fined' by the Federal Trade Commission, and that the warranty which plaintiff markets and sells is a 'marketing tool to compensate for inherent deficiencies in either [plaintiff's] product, their process or both.'" (Complaint ¶ 14.)  The Complaint further alleges that defendants, throught their website, make claims that plaintiff operates a fraudulent "pyramid scheme." (Complaint ¶ 15.)

The Complaint asserts causes of action for (i) defamation; (ii) tortious interference with prospective economic advantage; (iii) trade libel; (iv) unfair business practices in violation fo O.C.G.A. § 10-1-370 et seq.; and (v) violation of the Cyber Piracy Prevention Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d) (based on defendants' "labeling and positioning their website, 'www.lifetimewarrantymyths.com,' and by using metatags, and otherwise" in a manner alleged to have infringed plaintiff's rights in its WASCOR trademark).

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

Westlaw Alert

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Blackmer v. Hanson

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

04/13/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Theresa Hanson

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of New Haven

Case Number: 

No. CV095028142S

Legal Counsel: 

Pro Se

Publication Medium: 

Website

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Corinne Blackmer filed a complaint and motion for temporary injunction in Connecticut Superior Court on April 13, 2009 against Theresa Hanson, alleging defamation, invasion of privacy, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. According to a decision in the case, "[t]he plaintiff's claims derive predominantly from the contents of a website operated by the defendant." Blackmer v. Hanson, No. CV095028142S, 2009 WL 328426, at *1 (Conn. Super. Ct. Sept. 4, 2009).

On July 23, 2009, Theresa Hanson moved to dismiss the lawsuit on the basis of insufficient service of process, lack of personal jurisdiction, and lack of subject matter jurisdiction. On September 4, 2009, Judge Zoarski granted Ms. Hanson's motion to dismiss on the basis of insufficient service of process. 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

Morrone v. The Journal News

Date: 

03/19/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

The Journal News (Gannett Satellite Information Network); XYZ Corps; John Does 1-10

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Organization
Large Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of New Jersey; United States District Court for the Southern District of New York

Case Number: 

08-CV-05732; 09-CV-02533

Legal Counsel: 

Satterlee Stephens Burke & Burke LLP

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On November 19, 2007, James Morrone accidentally shot a friend who was hunting with him. The friend, who was shot in the leg, survived the shooting and recovered. The Journal News published an article about the shooting with the headline: "Purchase Man Charged with Felony in Hunting Death" on its online news and communty website, www.lohud.com.

Mr. Morrone sued the Journal News and its parent company, Gannett Satellite Information Network, on November 20, 2008 in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. Mr. Morrone sought $500,000 in damages for defamation, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress for the allegedly false statement that there was a "Hunting Death." (Compl. 2)

Gannett argued that the average reader would understand from reading the article as a whole that the friend did not die. Gannett also argued that if liability is based solely on the headline, the "'gist' or ‘sting' of the article—Morrone's felony charge for first-degree reckless endangerment, which included accidentally shooting his friend in the leg—is substantially true." (Reply Mem. 2)

The case was transferred to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on March 10, 2009.

Content Type: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Michael Mann v No Cap and Trade, Minnesotans for Global Warming

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Date: 

03/08/2010

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

No Cap and Trade; Minnesotans for Global Warming

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Organization

Publication Medium: 

Website

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

The following is a user-submitted description:

Michael Mann, one of the central figures in the recent climate-data scandal, is best known for his "hockey stick graph," which was the key visual aid in explaining how the world is warming at an alarming rate and in connecting the rise to the increase in use of carbon fuels in this century. . . The parody video, titled "Hide the Decline," had more than 500,000 viewers on YouTube and received national attention when Rush Limbaugh played it on his radio show. It features a cat with a guitar, a talking tree, and a dancing figure sporting the image of Professor Mann. It's the use of his image that Mann is complaining about, arguing that the video supports "efforts to sell various products and merchandise." In his letter Mann threatened legal action, claiming the spoof video "illegally used his image and defamed him."

Content Type: 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Subject Area: 

Palm Coast Travel v. Elliott

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

12/29/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Christopher Elliott; Peter Lay

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Name: 

Circuit Court of the 15th Judicial Circuit in and for Palm Beach, County, Florida

Case Number: 

50 2009 CA 043673

Legal Counsel: 

Gregory W. Herbert, J. Seth Galloway - Greenberg Traurig, P.A. (for Elliott); David Paul Bradley - Cole, Scot & Kissane, P.A. (for Lay)

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

Palm Coast Travel sued travel journalist Chris Elliott after he reported Elliott.org that Florida regulators had warned three travel insurance agencies, including Palm Coast, that offering policies from bankrupt Prime TravelProtection Services might violate state law. The complaint includes claims for defamation and tortious interference with contract.

In a March 2009 blog post, Elliott quoted a Florida Department of Financial Services spokeswoman as saying the state had ordered the agencies to “stop transacting business” and that “they’re on notice that further activity is pending [by the state]." Florida then issued a press release that clarified what steps regulators had taken: “As a result of ongoing investigations into complaints about the sale of unauthorized travel insurance in Florida, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink has notified three travel agencies that she intends to order them to stop selling insurance.” Elliott added this information as an update to his post.

In December 2009, Palm Coast sued Elliott claiming that his reporting defamed the company:

Elliott included among his reporting recent regulatory investigations of customer complaints regarding Prime Travel Protection and Jerry Watson. Elliott’s reporting included publication of false information regarding Palm Coast, which has and will continue to damage Palm Coast’s business unless it is properly remedied.

Among the statements Elliott published were falsehoods that stated that Palm Coast had been ordered to cease doing business by the State of Florida. No such order exists, and therefore that report was false.

Further, Elliott, when purporting to “clarify” his deliberately false statement regarding the State of Florida’s investigation of travel insurance, did not fully remedy the false impression he fostered regarding Palm Coast’s role.

Elliott’s falsehoods were directed at, among other aspects of Palm Coast’s business, its reputation in the trade or industry of travel. Moreover, Elliott did not properly correct, clarify, or retract his falsehoods, despite proper notice.

In the same lawsuit, Palm Coast also sued Peter Lay, one of its customers, for allegedly making false statements to Florida regulators about his experience with Palm Coast.

In March 2010, both Elliott and Lay filed motions to dismiss the complaint, arguing that it fails to state a cause of action for defamation or tortious interference. Lay also argued that the court lacks personal jurisdiction over him.

Update:  On June 26, 2010, Elliott announced on his blog that the case had settled:

I offered my apologies for passing along the wrong information, however unintentional. Lee Smolinski, Palm Coast Travel's president, accepted. 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Xcentric Ventures LLC v. Bird

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

01/21/2009

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Sarah L. Bird, John Doe Bird, SEOMONZ, Inc. d/b/a SEOMonz.org

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Arizona

Case Number: 

CV 09-1033-PHX-ROS

Legal Counsel: 

Debora Lynn Verdier and Mark G Worischeck, Sanders & Parks PC

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

On January 21, 2009, plaintiffs Xcentric Ventures, LLC and Edward
Magedson, operators of the website RipOffReport.com, filed a complaint
in Arizona state court against defendants Sarah L. Bird and John Doe
Bird, as well as their company, SEOMONZ, Inc. d/b/a SEOMonz.org.  The
Complaint asserted a claim for defamation, based statements made by Ms. Bird in an article on the SEOMonz.org website entitled "The Anatomy of a RipOff Report Lawsuit."  According to the Complaint, the article made false and libelous statements about the plaintiffs, including the "implication" that "Rip-Off Report is actually drafting 'defamatory titles'" that appear on the Rip-Off Report website, as well as advice to readers suing Rip-Off Report that they should "'allege that the website created and/or substantially altered the meaning of the content', regardless of whether they have actual evidence of that fact."  The Complaint futher cited the "implication" from the article that "the plaintiffs and attorneys who have sued Rip-Off Report for violations of the RICO Act have had a legitimate basis for making these allegations."

On May 14, 2009, defendants removed the case to federal court and filed a Motion to Dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.  On February 4, 2010, the District Court granted defendants' motion, holding that defendants actions were not "expressly aimed" at Arizona, and that plaintiffs failed to show a connection between the alleged tort (the publication of an article containing allegedly defamatory statements) and the forum (Arizona), other than plaintiffs' residence in the state. Plaintiffs have appealed the case to the Ninth Circuit.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

Blog Post

Kehoe v. Craigslist

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

03/01/2010

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Craigslist, Inc.; Jane Doe

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Supreme Court of the State of New York, Queens County

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Material Removed

Description: 

Leo Kehoe, a Queens accountant, sued Craigslist, Inc. in New York state court after an anonymous individual posted ads on Craigslist calling him a "crook" and a "fraudulent scumbag." Kehoe also sued the anonymous poster. According to Gothamist, the postings have since been removed and the following were posted in their place: "Leo Kehoe is a great CPA. He charged me a lower fee than what I had payed with someone else and he did a much better job" and "Leo Kehoe: Much better than Cats. I'm going to see him again and again."  These postings have expired.

Kehoe's lawyer told the Daily News: "Craigslist should have known the posting was false and untrue and would subject Kehoe to 'ridicule, disgrace and prejudice.'"  The claim against Craigslist will almost certainly be dismissed under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Content Type: 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

"Fred Ross" Files Anti-SLAPP Motion Against Patterson City Attorney

A couple of weeks ago, my good friend and all-around First Amendment bad ass Marc Randazza called on a bunch of law bloggers to make March "Anti-SLAPP Month" in honor of Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN)’s propos

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Keeping Online Speech Outside the Schoolhouse Gate

A freshman at Oak Grove High School in Missouri used Facebook last month to vent about another student: "Wow, [expletive] alert," wrote Megan Wisemore.

Subject Area: 

Fake Giraffe Update: Louisiana Court Sides With Satirical Website

Nicholas Brilleaux, publisher of Hammond Action News, got a big victory yesterday when a Louisiana judge dissolved an order prohibiting him from posting a satirical news story about a fictional giraffe attack on his blog.

Subject Area: 

Lee v. Young, Black, and Fabulous

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

03/05/2010

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Natasha Eubanks; Young, Black, and Fabulous, LLC

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of Fulton County, State of Georgia

Case Number: 

2010cv182439

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

In March 2010, Latosha Lee sued celebrity gossip blog Young, Black, and Fabulous and its author in Georgia state court.  The complaint alleges that blogger Natasha Eubanks defamed Lee by calling her "Shaq's stripper mistress," when in fact she has never worked as a stripper.  The complaint also alleges that the blog invaded her privacy by publishing copies of personal emails and photographs "obtained illegally and as a result of unauthorized access to the personal email account of the recipient."  In addition, the complaint includes a copyright infringement claim for unauthorized distribution of three photographs taken by Lee. 

Content Type: 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Global Wildlife Center v. Hammond Action News

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

03/01/2010

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Nicholas Brilleaux d/b/a Hammond Action News

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

21st Judicial District Court, Parish of Tangipahoa, State of Louisiana

Legal Counsel: 

J. Parker Layrisson

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Injunction Denied
Injunction Issued

Description: 

Global Wildlife Center, a wildlife preserve in Folsom, Louisiana, sued Nicholas Brilleaux, publisher of the Hammond Action News blog, after he published a satirical article about a fake giraffe attack at the preserve. Hammond Action News publishes Onion-style fake news stories about regional happenings in the Hammond area northwest of New Orleans.

On March 2, 2010, Judge Brenda Bedsole Ricks of the 21st Judicial District Court in Amite, Louisiana granted Global Wildlife Center a temporary restraining order requiring Brilleaux to remove the story from his blog. 

Brilleaux's lawyer told the First Amendment Center that the restraining order was issued without a hearing. The court will hold a hearing on Global Wildlife Center's request for a preliminary injunction on March 15, 2010.  The ACLU filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Brilleaux, arguing that the First Amendment protects his satirical work.

Update:

03/15/2010 - District Judge Beth Wolfe dissolved the temporary restraining order and denied the request for a preliminary injunction. The court also ordered Global Wildlife to pay Brilleaux $500 in attorneys' fees and court costs.

03/01/2013 - about three years after the dissolution of this case, Ken Matherne, the owner of the Global Wildlife Center, sent an email to Ken White of the blog Popehat, threatening legal action for his blog post from March 2010 concerning this case. 

3/06/2013 - the website Techdirt, after reporting on the threat received by Ken White from Ken Martherene, received a similar threat via email.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Science Journalist Simon Singh Drops Guardian Column to Fight Libel Suit Full-Time

Science journalist Simon Singh announced on Friday that he is giving up his Guardian column to devote his time and energy to fighting the British Chiropractic Association's libel lawsuit against him and to campaigning for libel reform in the United Kingdom. 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Subject Area: 

France v. Weiler

Date: 

09/28/2008

Threat Type: 

Criminal Charge

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Joseph Weiler

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

International

Court Name: 

Paris Criminal Tribunal

Publication Medium: 

Website

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

In September 2008, New York University law professor Joseph Weiler was summoned to appear before a French Examining Judge in connection with a complaint of alleged criminal libel made by Dr. Karin Calvo-Goller, a senior lecturer at the Academic Centre of Law and Business in Israel.  Professor Weiler will appear for trial before the Paris Criminal Tribunal in June 2010.

Professor Weiler is the editor in chief of the European Journal of International Law and the affiliated book review sites, Global Law Books and European Law Books. In 2007, Global Law Books published a book review written by Professor Thomas Weigend, Director of the Cologne Institute of Foreign and International Criminal Law and Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Cologne.  Professor Weigend reviewed Dr. Calvo-Goller's book, The Trial Proceedings of the International Criminal Court. ICTY and ICTR Precedents, and criticized it as an "exercise in rehashing the existing legal set-up" and "unproductive," among other things. 

In June 2007, Dr. Calvo-Goller wrote to Professor Weiler in his capacity as editor of Global Law Books, requesting that he remove Professor Weigend's review from the site. Her letter detailed several perceived factual inaccuracies in the review, claiming that it went "beyond the expression of an opinion, fair comment and criticism" and contained "false factual statements which the author of the review, a professor of criminal law, could not reasonably believe to be true." It also claimed that "[t]he review is an indirect insult to former ICTY and actual ICC officials, defense counsel of the ICTY and ICTR, who took the time to read and comment on previous drafts of the book."

In a response to Dr. Calvo-Goller, Professor Weiler declined to remove the review, expressing his sympathy for Dr. Calvo-Goller's hurt feelings, but also pointing out the unorthodox character of the request:

 I have seen all manner of reviews and from time to time received letters from unhappy authors. In these long years of experience I have never received a letter such as yours both in content and tone. It departs from what in my view are considered common conventions of academic discourse and academic publication.

. . . 

It is a very extreme request to ask for a critical review to be removed. I could imagine acceding to such a request only in most egregious circumstances of, say, bad faith, conflict of interest etc. In reviewing a complaint such as yours the task of the editor is not to engage in a de novo review, but to assess whether the review falls into one of those extreme categories of egregious unreasonableness.

After noting Professor Weigend's distinguished professional credentials and addressing each specific factual/substantive contention in turn, Professor Weiler concluded that removing the review was not justified:

My conclusion from this preliminary enquiry is that the heavy burden needed in my eyes to suppress a book review has not been met. In fact not even a prima facie case has been made. I found nothing to impugn the integrity or professionalism of the reviewer and, independently of whether or not I share his opinions or conclusions on your book, I must decline your request to suppress the book review by removing it from the site. 

Professor Weiler also explained that he would forward Dr. Calvo-Goller's comments to Professor Weigend and would consider a request by Professor Weigend, if any, to change the review. Professor Weiler also pointed out the comment feature on the website and suggested that it would be "perfectly in order for you to write a comment which, after editorial approval, could be posted on the website and seen by anyone who reads the review."

Professor Weigend declined to make any changes, Dr. Calvo-Goller posted no comment, and Professor Weiler stood by Professor Weigend's decision.

Content Type: 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

George Logan v. Fred Ross

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

01/07/2010

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Fred Ross; Does I-XX

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of the State of California, County of Merced

Case Number: 

CV000745

Publication Medium: 

Print
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

In January 2010, George Logan, City Attorney for Patterson, California, filed a lawsuit against John Doe defendants individually and collectively referring to themselves as "Fred Ross" over statements appearing on the Patterson IrriTator website and in comments posted to the Patterson Irrigator's website. According to the complaint, filed in California state court, the statements in question asserted that Logan was "in the pocket of developers" and a "joke."  The complaint includes claims for libel and conspiracy to libel.

A post on the Patterson IrriTator recommends that readers refrain from posting comments on the website "if you are concerned about your identity being revealed."

Update: 

03/10/2010-Fred Ross filed a motion to strike the complaint under California's anti-SLAPP law.

Content Type: 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Dunne v. Lara

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

05/22/2008

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Charles Lara

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of the State of California, Santa Barbara County; Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District, Division Six

Case Number: 

1267944 (trial level); B 210779 (appellate level)

Legal Counsel: 

Patric Weddle - Law office of Patric H.R. Weddle

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

In 2008, Dunne, the owner of a motorcycle repair shop in Santa Barbara sued Lara, a former customer, who published statements about the shop on DucatiSpot, a forum for Ducati motorcyle enthusiasts.  According to court documents, Lara allegedly posted comments falsely suggesting that the repair shop had been operating without required registrations and that it had been raided by the FBI.

Lara moved to strike the complaint under California's anti-SLAPP statute (Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 425.16).  The trial court denied the motion and Lara appealed.  On appeal, in November 2009, the California Court of Appeal, Second District, held that Lara's statements were not entitled to the protection of the anti-SLAPP statute because they were not connected to an issue of public interest.  The court reasoned that Lara's comments "expressed only personal dissatisfaction about a single service provider and were not connected to an ongoing discussion on an issue of broader public interest."  Dunne v. Lara, 2009 WL 3808345 (Cal. Ct. App. Nov. 16, 2009).

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

Will Italy's Conviction of Google Execs Stick?

I've no doubt that CMLP blog readers, fellow netizens that you are, are well aware of an Italian court's conviction last week of three Google executives for invasion of privacy of an Italian teenager. 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Proman v. Google

Date: 

12/12/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Google, Inc.; John Does 1-10

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Intermediary

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Supreme Court of the State of New York, Nassau County

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On December 12, 2009, Matthew Brian Proman and NAPW, Inc. (d/b/a National Association of Professional Women) sued Google, Inc. and 10 John Doe defendants in New York state court, asserting claims for "misappropriation of Plaintiffs' names for trade and advertising purposes" and defamation.  (Complaint ¶1)

According to the complaint, Google hosts four articles about the National Association of Professional Women, through its Blogger and Knol services, that contain allegedly defamatory statements about NAPW and Proman. As alleged in the Complaint, the posts at issue call NAPW a "scam," and label Proman a "scam artist." (Complaint  ¶8).

The Complaint requested an injunction ordering Google to remove the allegedly defamatory posts, identification of the authors of the posts, and pecuniary and exemplary damages against the Doe defendants.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Priority: 

1-High

Jurisdiction: 

Pages