Alvi Armani Medical, Inc. v. Hennessey

NOTE: The information and commentary contained in this database entry are based on court filings and other informational sources that may contain unproven allegations made by the parties. The truthfulness and accuracy of such information is likely to be in dispute. Information contained in this entry is current as of the last event mentioned in the "Description" section below; additional proceedings might have taken place in this matter since this event.

Summary

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

05/19/2008

Status: 

Concluded

Location: 

Florida

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)
Settled (total)

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

N/A
Dr. Antonio Alvi Armani, a California hair-restoration surgeon, filed a lawsuit in Florida federal court against Media Visions, Inc., and its president, Patrick Hennessey, the operators of The Hair Tranplant Network, a hair-loss forum.  The complaint, also filed... read full description
Parties

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Media Visions, Inc.; Patrick Hennessey

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Location of Party: 

  • California

Location of Party: 

  • Florida
  • Minnesota

Legal Counsel: 

James J. McGuire and Deanna K. Shullman - Thomas & LoCicero PL
Description

Dr. Antonio Alvi Armani, a California hair-restoration surgeon, filed a lawsuit in Florida federal court against Media Visions, Inc., and its president, Patrick Hennessey, the operators of The Hair Tranplant Network, a hair-loss forum.  The complaint, also filed on behalf of Armani Medical, Inc., claimed that Hennessey and Media Visions posted false comments about Armani and his practice on the forum site and created the false impression that posters on the site were bona fide disgruntled patients, when if fact they were either fictitious persons or undisclosed affiliates of doctors on the site's recommended list of "pre-screened" doctors.  The complaint included claims for deceptive and unfair trade practices, defamation, trade libel, and tortious interference with contract.

The complaint further claimed that the defendants failed to comply with an alleged "industry practice" of hair-loss forums:

It is industry practice and procedure to respond to this kind of posting by having the moderator of the website send a private message to the alleged "patient" requesting they privately submit verifying information to the moderator establishing their identity as a bona fide patient of the doctor in question. If the patient is verified as real then the clinic or hospital responsible for their treatment is allowed to post a response.

Compl. ¶ 50. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the suit, arguing Media Visions was immune from liability for user comments under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (Section 230).  The plaintiffs then withdrew their claims for trade libel and tortious interference with contract. They also filed a response in opposition to the defendant's motion to dismiss, arguing that the defendants were not immune under Section 230 because the defendants themselves posted defamatory comments. 

In a December 2008 ruling, the court denied the motion to dismiss plaintiffs' unfair trade practices claim, ruling that Section 230 did not apply because the claim was not based soley on "information provided by another information content provider."  In support of this conclusion, the court noted that the plaintiffs had alleged, among other things, that Media Visions created fake website content itself, failed to adequately disclose its sponsorship relationship with rival doctors, and refused to comply with the standard industry practice of verifying the identity of posters who have been called into question.

The court granted dismissal of the defamation claim on grounds that the plaintiffs had not complied with Fla. Stat. § 770.01, part of the Florida retraction statute that required them to give written notice of the alleged defamatory statements at least five days before filing suit.

The parties stipulated to dismissal of the complaint with prejudice in February 2009, apparently due to a settlement.

Details

Content Type: 

  • Text

Publication Medium: 

Forum
Website

Subject Area: 

  • Retractions and Corrections
  • Defamation
  • Section 230
  • Trade Libel
  • Business Torts
  • Consumer Ratings and Reviews
  • User Comments or Submissions
Court Information & Documents
CMLP Information (Private)

Priority: 

1-High

Threat Source: 

Westlaw Alert

CMLP Notes: 

Alvi Armani Medical, Inc. v. Hennessey, Slip Copy, 2008 WL 5971233(S.D.Fla. Dec 09, 2008) (NO. 08-21449-CIV)

CMF-6/4/09