SLAPP

Ottinger v. Tiekert

Date: 

09/04/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Stuart Tiekert

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Supreme Court of the State of New York, Westchester County

Case Number: 

016429/2008

Legal Counsel: 

Debra S. Cohen

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Former House Representative Richard Ottinger and his wife, June Ottinger, filed a John Doe lawsuit in New York state court over anonymous comments posted on a forum on LoHud.com.  In a special proceeding for pre-action discovery, the court ordered The Journal News, publisher of LoHud.com, to turn over the commenter's identifying information.  The Ottingers then amended the complaint to name Stuart Tiekert as a defendant.

According to court documents, Tiekert's comments related to a renovation project the Ottingers were carrying out on their home in Mamaroneck, New York, for which they sought various building permits. Some of the Ottingers' neighbors and local activists attended meetings held in connection with approvals and permits that the Ottingers needed, and one neighbor — Susan McCrory — stated her belief at a televised public meeting that the deed for the Ottinger property was "invalid" and "fraudulent."  The next day, Tiekert posted comments on LoHud suggesting that the Ottingers' deed was fraudulent, and that the Ottingers had used political pressure and bribery to obtain the requisite permits for the project.  The Ottingers sued, maintaining that these statements were false and defamatory. 

Tiekert filed a motion for summary judgment and attorneys' fees under New York's anti-SLAPP statutes, N.Y. Civ. Rights Law §§ 70-a, 76-a and N.Y. C.P.L.R. §§ 3211(g), 3212(h). He also filed a counterclaim alleging that he was entitled to damages based on the Ottingers' filing of a SLAPP.

In August 2009, the court granted Tiekert's motion for summary judgment, finding that the action "involves public petition and participation brought by a public applicant, and which action is materially related to the defendant's efforts to comment on, challenge, or oppose said application," thus triggering the New York anti-SLAPP law.  The court further held that the Ottingers "failed to demonstrate that their action has a substantial basis in fact or law, or is supported by a substantial argument for an extension, modification, or reversal of any existing law" and therefore dismissed the action. 

The court's precise reasoning on the latter point is not clear, but it may relate to the Ottingers' inability to prove by clear and convincing evidence that Tiekert made the statements in question with knowledge of, or reckless disregard for, their falsity, particularly in light of McCrory's public statements the previous day.

The court determined, however, that Tiekert was not entitled to compensatory or punitive damages because it found that the lawsuit was not "brought to harass, intimidate, punish, or otherwise maliciously inhibit the free exercise of speech."  The court also declined to award Tiekert attorneys' fees and costs.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Subject Area: 

Sedgwick Claims Management Services v. Delsman

Date: 

04/03/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Robert A. Delsman

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Northern District of California

Case Number: 

09-cv-1468

Legal Counsel: 

Pro Se (trial court); Paul Alan Levy - Public Citizen Litigation Group (appeal)

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Print
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Sedgwick, a company that provides insurance claims management services, sued Robert Delsman, a former employee of one of Sedgwick's clients, for copyright infringement, defamation, and other torts, after he created gripe sites, blogs, videos and print materials criticizing the company. Delsman's beef with the company started after he filed a claim for disability benefits in 2006.  According to the complaint, Delsman was unhappy with the way in which Sedgwick handled his claims, and began a campaign of harassment which allegedly included:

  • Hosting pictures of Sedgwick's CEO and COO on his website and blog, which "morph[ed] . . . into images of Adolph Hitler and Heinrich Himmler," and posting a similar video to YouTube
  • Referring to Sedgwick and its employees as "Sedgthugs"
  • Unjustly accusing Sedgwick of engaging in criminal behavior on his website and in emails
  • "Operation Going Postcard," in which Delsman sent postcards to Sedgwick offices, employees, customers and outside insurance agencies in multiple states.  These postcards allegedly contained copyrighted images of Sedgwick's CEO and COO and an image of a human skull containing Sedgwick's trademark in the eye sockets, along with "defamatory, false and libelous statements against Sedgwick.

(Compl. ¶¶ 12-13.)  Sedgwick sought damages, fees, and an injunction preventing Delsman from sending offensive emails or postcards and further defaming or libeling Sedgwick, and requiring him to remove all of Sedgwick's copyrighted material from his website and blog and to destroy all Sedgwick's copyrighted material in his possession.

Delsman, who is representing himself pro se, has filed a motion for summary judgment.  The court has yet to rule on his motion.

UPDATE:

07/17/2009- The court construed Delsman's motion for summary judgment as a motion to dismiss and granted the motion.  The court held that the copyright claim failed because Delsman's use of Sedgwick photographs was fair use.  The court dismissed the remaining claims under California's anti-SLAPP statute.

12/16/2009- Sedgwick filed its opening brief on appeal.

01/29/2010 - Delsman filed its response brief.

03/01/2010 - Sedgwick filed its reply brief.

03/21/2011 - In an unpublished, two-page opinion, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's ruling.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Updated with Ninth Circuit ruling, sent to us by Delsman - AAB 4/1/11

 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Grijalva v. Brandt

Date: 

03/11/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Helga Brandt; Josef Motycka; ASSE International, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of San Diego County (trial); Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District

Case Number: 

Super. Ct. No. 37-2008-00052285; D053856 (appeal)

Legal Counsel: 

George L. Hampton IV; HamptonHolly LLP

Publication Medium: 

Email

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Grijalva and Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students (CSFES), a website which reports fraud and abuse committed against foreign exchange students, filed a lawsuit against ASSE International, Inc. (ASSE); Helga Brandt; and Josef Motycka, claiming defamation and unfair business practices for allegedly sending emails critical of CSFES to the parents of foreign exchange students.

Plantiffs alleged in their complaint that "ASSE . . . set out to malign CSFES  and . . . Grijalva with an intentional and false campaign directed to the parents of students. . . ." Opinion at 4. Grijalva asserted that in its email campaign againts her, ASSE falsely accused her of the following:

  • "conducting her website and agency with a 'commercial purpose'"
  • "'manipulating facts'"
  • "'not portraying a clear picture'"
  • "'isn't interested in the welfare of the students'"
  • "'threatening' to send information on exchange agencies but 'if got [sic] a contribution doesn't send anything,'"
  • "'represent[ing] herself as a federal agent,'"
  • "'performs background checks,'"
  • "[b]eing a 'liar,'" and
  • "[m]aking 'false statements'[.]'"

Id. 

ASSE and Brandt filed an anti-SLAPP motion seeking to dismiss the complaint. In the motion, ASSE and Brandt claimed that plaintiffs' lawsuit was filed in retaliation for ASSE's participating in a separate lawsuit against Grijalva then pending in North Carolina. The trial judge granted defendants' motion. Plaintiffs appealed. The appeals court reversed the trial judge's ruling and remanded the case to San Diego Superior Court. 

The grounds for reversal was that ASSE's and Brandt's allegations that plaintiffs filed the lawsuit a "mere one month" after ASSE intervened in the North Carolina suit was not sufficient to demonstrate that plaintiffs' claims arose from ASSE's participation in the suit.  The court further found that ASSE's and Brandt's claim that the lawsuit was filed in retaliation for ASSE's participation in the North Carolina suit was irrelevant to application of the anti-SLAPP statute. The court held that a complaint filed with a retaliatory motive was not barred by the anti-SLAPP statute, so long as the claims in the complaint arose from statements or conduct independent of ASSE's participation in the North Carolina litigation.  

CMLP Notes: 

2009 WL 2149149

The reversal just came down so we will need to wait and find the case on remand.

AVM 7-23-09 

Priority: 

2-Normal

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Consociate Inc. v. Macon County Shared Vision

Date: 

06/04/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Macon County Shared Vision; Stephen D. Daniels

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Macon County Circuit Court (6th Circuit Court Illinois)

Case Number: 

2007 L 000068

Legal Counsel: 

Don Craven; Stephen Daniels

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

Administrators of the employee healthcare plan for the city of Decatur, Illinois filed a defamation lawsuit against Macon County Shared Vision, a concerned-citizens group that criticized high healthcare costs in several website postings.

Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint under Illinois anti-SLAPP statute, which was passed by the legislature but not signed by the governor before the suit was filed.  The Illinois court held that the anti-SLAPP statute's dismissal provision applied retroactively to the case, but that the its costs and fees provision did not. The court also rejected the administrators' argument that the anti-SLAPP law was unconstitutional under the Illinois Constitution.

The administrators subsequently moved to voluntarily dismiss the complaint, and the court granted the motion over Macon County Shared Vision's objection. In April 2009, Macon County Shared Vision appealed the decision to grant voluntary dismissal and to not award fees and costs.

Update:

August 24, 2009 - Macon County Shared Vision appealed the voluntary dismissal of the case and argues that the cost and fees provision of Illinois' anti-SLAPP statute does apply retroactively to the case.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

MCS editing. Waiting to receive documents. 11-14-2008.

AVM 6/05/09- filing stuff, linked to docket, put in case number, and corrected data filed. Documents not on state website or on westlaw.

CMF 6/26/09

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jacob v. Bezzant

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

01/01/1999

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

B. Brett Bezzant; Newtah, Inc. (d/b/a American Fork Citizen New Utah); Does I-X

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Fourth District Court- Utah County (Trial); Supreme Court of Utah (Appeal)

Case Number: 

No. 000403530 (Trial); No. 20060856 (Appeal)

Legal Counsel: 

Jeffrey J. Hunt, David C. Reymann

Publication Medium: 

Print
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

In 1999, Brett Bezzant, then-owner of the American Fork Citizen New Utah!, a local newspaper, published a political advertisement prepared and paid for by Bill Jacob, which claimed that an American Fork City ordinance barred two men from running for City Council, despite a legal opinion from the city's attorneys that said otherwise. Jacob's name was not on the flier. After the two candidates complained to Bezzant, he paid for and published an "Urgent Election Notice" that apologized to the two men, named Jacob as the author of the political advertisement, and called it a "classic example of negative campaigning." Bezzant distributed the notice by mail to American Fork residents and posted it on the newspaper's website.

Jacob filed a lawsuit against Bezzant, claiming the notice contained defamatory language and portrayed him in a false light. Bezzant filed a counterclaim under Utah's Citizen Participation in Government Act, also known as the Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) Act.  The trial court dismissed Jacob's defamation claims and granted Bezzant attorney's fees under the Anti-SLAPP Act and a federal civil rights statute (42 U.S.C. § 1988(b)).

On appeal, the Utah Supreme Court held in a June 2009 opinion that dismissal of Jacob's defamation suit and awarding of attorney's fees was inappropriate under the Anti-SLAPP Act because Bezzant's election notice was not "participati[on] in the process of government."  Utah Code Ann. § 78B-6-1403(1) (2008).  However, the Utah Supreme Court upheld the trial court's dismissal of the defamation suit as lacking legal merit and the award of partial attorney's fees under the civil rights statute.  The court declined to address the issue, raised by Jacobs for the first time on appeal, of whether Utah's Anti-SLAPP Act is unconstitutional under the Utah Constitution.

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

2009 WL 1659372

06/25/09 - LB editing

Subject Area: 

Bible & Gospel Trust v. Twinam

Date: 

01/25/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Timothy J. Twinam; Sallie Twinam; Peebs.net

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont

Case Number: 

1:07-cv-00017

Legal Counsel: 

Rebecca E. Boucher, Ronald A. Shems - Shems Dunkiel Kassel & Saunders, PLLC (for Defendant Timothy Twinam); Pro se (Defendant Sallie Twinam)

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Bible & Gospel Trust, associated with a religious group known as the Exclusive Brethren, sued Sallie and Timothy Twinam claiming that they were the owners and operators of the website Peebs.net, which is critical of the Exclusive Brethren.  

The complaint, which includes claims of copyright infringement, conversion, and tortious interference with a contractual relationship, arises from the alleged posting of materials from the Exclusive Brethren's now-defunct website, exclusivebrethren.net.  Bible & Gospel Trust claims that all interests in exclusivebrethren.net and its contents were transferred to it as part of a settlement agreement in an earlier case, and that the unauthorized posting of the material on Peebs.net constitutes a violation of Bible & Gospel Trust’s copyrights.  

Although Timothy Twinam denied being the owner of Peebs.net in his answer, he later admitted to owning the site during discovery, according to a Peebs.net press release.  Sallie Twinam admits to having been a “nominal owner” of the site only for the period of time between April 5, 2007 and January 25, 2008.  Both deny that the alleged copyrighted material was published on Peebs.net.  

Bible & Gospel Trust is seeking an injunction preventing the publication of its copyrighted material, an order compelling Twinam and Peebs.net to destroy all copies of the copyrighted material in their possession and to publish a retraction and an apology, and compensatory and punitive damages.

Timothy Twinam has filed a special motion to strike under Vermont's Anti-SLAPP statute (12 V.S.A. § 1041).  The court is treating this motion as a motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, but has yet to rule on this motion. 

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

This is the same organization in Bible Gospel Trust v. Wyman

Some of the docs for this are on WL at 2009 WL 1707523

06/25/09 - LB editing

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Zisa v. Labrosse

Date: 

02/24/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Deborah Labrosse

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court, Bergen County

Case Number: 

L-001824-09

Legal Counsel: 

Ted Takvorian

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

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

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

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

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

Source: NorthJersey.com

CMF - 6/5/09

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

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.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Eric Goldman

 

RPK

avm 6/12/09

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Grogan v. Hilliard

Date: 

05/30/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

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".

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

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

User Feedback

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

First Cash Financial Services v. Yahoo! Inc.

Date: 

07/30/2003

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Yahoo! Inc.

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Large Organization
Intermediary

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of California, Santa Clara County

Case Number: 

1-03-CV-002135 (California)

Legal Counsel: 

Mark Goldowitz - California Anti-SLAPP Project; Cindy A. Cohn - Electronic Frontier Foundation

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

First Cash Financial Services, a Texas-based company operating a chain of pawn shops and cash checking services, obtained a subpoena from a California state court requiring Yahoo to provide identifying information for an individual who posted anonymous comments to Fast Cash's Yahoo! Finance message board.  Fast Cash sought the information in order to identify the John Doe defendant in a breach of contract action it had previously filed in Texas state court.  (For details, see the related database entry, First Cash Financial Services v. Doe.)  The anonymous poster intervened and filed a special motion to strike the action (including the subpoena) under California's anti-SLAPP statute.  According to EFF, the California court denied the motion to strike, presumably allowing the subpoena to be enforced.

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

First Cash Financial Services v. Doe

Date: 

08/19/2002

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Doe, aka knowfcfs

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Tarrant County (Texas) District Court; Superior Court of California, Santa Clara County

Case Number: 

No. 96 19455202 (Texas); 1-03-CV-002135 (California)

Legal Counsel: 

Mark Goldowitz - California Anti-SLAPP Project; Cindy A. Cohn - Electronic Frontier Foundation

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

First Cash Financial Services, a Texas-based company operating a chain of pawn shops and cash checking services, sued a John Doe defendant in Texas state court.  The complaint alleged breach of contract arsing out of critical statements about the firm's accounting practices posted to Fast Cash's Yahoo! Finance message board

After obtaining permission of the Texas court, First Cash asked a California state court to issue a subpoena requiring Yahoo to provide identifying information for the anonymous poster.  A clerk of the court issued the subpoena, and the anonymous poster filed a special motion to strike the action (including the subpoena) under California's anti-SLAPP statute.  According to EFF, the California court denied the motion to strike, presumably allowing the subpoena to be enforced.

The CMLP was not able to find any information about what happened to the case upon its return to Texas state court. 

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

California Court Rules That MySpace Postings Aren't Private

A California appellate court ruled last week that a young woman could not recover for invasion of privacy based on re-publication of material she posted on her MySpace page.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Simorangkir v. Love

Date: 

03/26/2009

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Courtney Michelle Love

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

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

Case Number: 

BC410593

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

$430,000.00

Legal Counsel: 

Keith A. Fink, Olaf J. Muller - Keith A. Fink & Associates

Publication Medium: 

Blog
Micro-blog
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

Fashion designer Dawn Simorangkir, who works under the label "BoudoirQueen," sued celebrity Courtney Love in California state court over statementsmade on Twitter, on Love's MySpace blog, and on Simorangkir's feedback page on etsy.com,an online marketplace for independent designers. 

Simorangkir allegesthat, after a business dispute arose between the two parties, Love usedTwitter and other online platforms to publish "not only delusional accusations and lies, butthreats of harm."  Cmplt. ¶ 20.  The complaint includes claims for libel, false light invasion of privacy, tortious interference with economic advantage, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and breach of contract.  Simorangkir claims that Love falsely accused her of lying, stealing, dealing drugs, assault, prostitution, and losing custody of her child, among other things.  Cmplt.¶ 24, 26.

Update:

5/5/2009 - Simorangkir filed an amended complaint, dropping one of the breach of contract claims and the claim for intentional inflictional of emotional distress.

8/19/2009 - Love filed a motion to strike under the California anti-SLAPP law.

10/26/2009 - The court denied Love's motion to strike.  The judge found that the subject matter of the Twitter post was not about a matter of public concern and that Simorangkir had shone a probability of proving her defamation case.

3/3/2011 - The Hollywood Reporter reports that case settled for $430,000, plus interest. 

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

The Traditional Cat Association v. Gilbreath

Date: 

05/22/2002

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Laura Gilbreath; Lee Zimerman; Randi Briggs; John Herold; Diane Dunaway; Traditional Cat Association

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court for the State of California for the County of San Diego; California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District, Division One

Case Number: 

GIC789066 (superior); D041421 (appellate)

Legal Counsel: 

Darren J. Quinn (for Defendants Gilbreath, Zimmerman, Briggs, Herold, and Traditional Cat Association, Inc.); Anthony J. Passante Jr. (for Defendant Dunaway)

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)
Material Removed
Settled (total)

Description: 

On May 22, 2002, Diane Fineran and The Traditional Cat Association (TTCA), filed a lawsuit against Laura Gilbreath, Lee Zimmerman, Randi Briggs, John Herold, Diane Dunaway, and Traditional Cat Association (TCA), claiming unfair competition, defamation, and conversion. 

The individuals in this case are all cat enthusiasts who held leadership positions in defendant organization TCA.  In 1998, a dispute led Fineran to leave TCA and found her own organization, TTCA.  Fineran then commenced a series of lawsuits against the defendants related to the dispute and her departure.  In response to these lawsuits, in 1998 defendant Herold created a website named "The Diane Fineran Response Web Site," which purported to report the status of this litigation. 

On May 22, 2002, Fineran filed suit again, claiming that Herold's website was defamatory, and also claiming unfair competition and conversion.  According to her complaint, Herold's website falsely stated that a jury had found Fineran guilty of defamation, and falsely stated that she had admitted that she did not found TCA.  According to the complaint, the website also stated that Fineran uses "intimidation" tactics, is a "dictator," and engages in "misrepresentations," "half truths" and "whole cloth invention."

The defendants moved to strike the complaint under California's anti-SLAPP statute.  The Superior Court denied the motion, finding that a statute of limitations defense will not support relief under the anti-SLAPP statute.  The California Court of Appeals for the Fourth District, Division One reversed the lower court and dismissed the defamation claim.  The court rejected the plaintiffs' argument that the statute of limitations renewed continuously as long as the website was running, applying California's single-publication rule to websites.  The appellate court found that the defendants had not unambiguously challenged the unfair competition claim in their motion to strike, so this claim remained intact.

In January, 2005, the parties settled.  Plaintiffs Fineran and TTCA agreed to pay $24,647.28 in attorney's fees and costs to the defendants.  Defendant organization TCA, now known as Traditional and Classic Cat International, agreed to change their numbering system for registering cats and kittens to be dissimilar from TTCA.  "The Diane Fineran Response Web Site" is no longer available.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Source:mentioned in case on westlaw

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Thomas & Betts Corp. v. Does 1-50

Date: 

05/12/2000

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Does 1-50

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of California, San Diego County

Case Number: 

GIC 748128

Legal Counsel: 

Paul Alan Levy & Alan B. Morrison - Public Citizen Litigation Group (for "WatchingTNB"); Charles A. Bird, Gregory D. Roper - Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps LLP (for "WatchingTNB")

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

On May 12, 2000, Thomas & Betts Corporation, an electrical connector manufacturer, brought a John Doe lawsuit in California state court against several anonymous posters to a Yahoo message board about the company.  The company alleged that certain of the anonymous posters defamed the company and released its proprietary information. The court authorized Thomas & Betts to subpoena Yahoo! for identifying information. 

After notification from Yahoo!, one of the defendants, "WatchingTNB," filed a motion to strike the complaint under the California anti-SLAPP statute (Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 425.16) and to quash the subpoena.  In August 2000, Thomas & Betts dropped the case against all defendants and issued a joint statement with Public Citizen (WatchingTNB's counsel): 

Although Thomas & Betts believes it has a legitimate interest in investigating releases of non-public information, the John Doe litigation it commenced in California was not the best forum to address those concerns. As a result, Thomas & Betts decided to voluntarily dismiss its lawsuit and thereby put to rest any concern that the litigation might chill fair and open discussion of the company’s business. Public Citizen appreciates Thomas & Betts’s responsiveness to the concerns it raised.

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Atlanta Humane Society v. Mills

Date: 

12/21/2001

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Kathi Mills

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization
Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court, Gwinnett County, Georgia; Court of Appeals of Georgia; Supreme Court of Georgia

Case Number: 

01-A-13269-1 (Superior Court); A03A2480 (Court of Appeals); S04G0685 (Supreme Court)

Legal Counsel: 

Alan Begner, Robert Adelson, Katherine Wood - Begner & Begner, P.C.

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

The Atlanta Humane Society (AHS) and its director, Bill Garrett, sued Kathi Mills for allegedly defamatory statements made on an Internet bulletin board.  In 2001, an Atlanta television station aired a "Whistleblower 2" series investigating AHS, which criticized AHS's management of county animal control, particularly its euthanasia policies, its failure to place animals for adoption, and its failure to assist in investigating animal cruelty cases.  Garrett was interviewed for the series.  In response to the television series, Mills, an animal rights advocate and publisher of the Kitty Village website, posted critical statements about Garrett and AHS on a Yahoo! group chat room for people in the local rescue community.

After AHS and Garrett filed suit, Mills moved to strike the complaint under Georgia's anti-SLAPP statute and also moved for summary judgment.  The trial court denied the motion to strike, granted summary judgment against AHS, and denied summary judgment against Garrett.  On appeal, the Court of Appeal of Georgia reversed the trial court, holding that it should have granted Mills' anti-SLAPP motion because it found that Mills had been commenting on a matter of public concern.  The Supreme Court of Georgia reversed and remanded for further consideration of whether the plaintiffs' complaint was falsely verified. 

On remand, the Court of Appeals of Georgia put aside the anti-SLAPP issue and ruled that the trial court had properly granted summary judgment against AHS because it was a governmental entity unable to sue for defamation.  It also ruled that the trial court should have granted summary judgment against Garrett because he was a limited-purpose public figure and had not produced evidence of actual malice.  In particular, the court explained that Mills was entitled to rely on the content of news reports:

Private citizens are not required to investigate the investigators to ensure that programs aired by a major television station are accurate and correct before making comments based on those programs, and failure to do so does not amount to malice in a constitutional sense.

Atlanta Humane Soc'y v. Mills, 618 S.E.2d 18, 26 (Ga. Ct. App. 2005). The appellate court therefore reversed the trial court insofar as it had denied summary judgment against Garrett and dismissed the case in its entirety. 

CMLP Notes: 

Source: Reporters Committee

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Neuwirth v. Silverstein: California Appellate Court Reverses Ruling Granting Motion to Strike

On Monday, a California appellate court reversed a trial court that had granted Richard Silverstein and Joel Beinin's motion to strike

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Union Square Partnership v. Durkee

Date: 

07/30/2008

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Savitri Durkee

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Administrative
Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York; WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center

Case Number: 

08-3101 (federal court); D2008-1234 (WIPO)

Legal Counsel: 

Corynne McSherry, Michael Kwan (Electronic Frontier Foundation); Terry Gross, Adam C. Belsky, Monique Alonso (Gross Belsky Alonso LLP); A. John P. Mancini, Gregory A. Frantz, Tiffany H. Scott (Mayer Brown LLP)

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

In July 2008, Union Square Partnership (USP), the nonprofit business improvement district for New York's Union Square neighborhood, sued Savitri Durkee for copyright infringement in New York federal court after she created a website that parodied the official USP website.  (Durkee is an activist who wants to preserve Union Square as a public gathering place and prevent it from being commercialized.)  In August 2008, USP also filed an administrative complaint with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), seeking to have the parody site's domain names (www.unionsquarepartnership.com and www.unionsquarepartnership.org) transferred to it.

Durkee failed to respond to the WIPO proceeding in a timely manner, and on October 22, 2008, the WIPO arbitration panel ordered that her site's domain names be transferred to USP.  On November 18, Durkee filed an answer and counterclaims in the federal court action, seeking a declaration that her domain names did not infringe USP's trademark or constitute cybersquatting.  Durkee also claimed that fair use excused any copyright infringement and that USP's lawsuit violated New York's anti-SLAPP laws.

The parties settled in January 2009.  Durkee agreed to transfer the domain names www.unionsquarepartnership.org and www.unionsquarepartnership.com to USP and to include a disclaimer on her site stating that the site is not affiliated with USP.   The parties also set out certain domain names that Durkee could not attempt to register or use.  Durkee now operates her new website at www.unionsquarepartnershipsucks.org.

Jurisdiction: 

Priority: 

1-High

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

Google News

Subject Area: 

Pages