Intellect Art Media Inc. v. Milewski

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: 

12/15/2008

Status: 

Concluded

Location: 

New York

Disposition: 

Dismissed (partial)

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

N/A
On December 15, 2008, Intellect Art Media, Inc., a Massachusetts-based company that operates a college-level summer program called Swiss Finance Academy, sued Mathew Milewski, a student at Fordham University; Xcentric Ventures, LLC, operators of the website RipoffReport.com; and five anonymous... read full description
Parties

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Mathew Milewski and Xcentric Ventures, LLC

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Location of Party: 

  • Massachusetts

Location of Party: 

  • New York
  • Arizona

Legal Counsel: 

Maria Crimi Speth, Jaburg & Wilk P.C. (for Xcentric)
Description

On December 15, 2008, Intellect Art Media, Inc., a Massachusetts-based company that operates a college-level summer program called Swiss Finance Academy, sued Mathew Milewski, a student at Fordham University; Xcentric Ventures, LLC, operators of the website RipoffReport.com; and five anonymous posters for defamation.  Intellect Art Media's claims were based on comments Milewski and others had posted on Ripoff Report, a consumer complaint site, regarding the Swiss Finance Academy program. The complaint also alleged a claim for breach of contract against Milewski and a products liability claim against Xcentric. Intellect Art Media later sought leave to amend the complaint to include six more causes of action against Xcentric, including tortious interference with prospective business relations, tortious interference with contractual relations, breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, common law negligence, and injurious falsehoods. 

In April 2009, the defendants separately moved to dismiss. The Supreme Court of New York dismissed all claims except the breach of contract claim against Milewksi. The court dismissed the defamation claim against Milewski, characterizing his criticism of Swiss Finance Academy as personal opinion that is protected by the First Amendment. The court reasoned that the context of the website revealed that Milewski was "a disgruntled consumer and that his statements reflect his personal opinion based upon his personal dealing with plaintiff." The court also noted that Milewski's description of the program as a "bait and switch scam" and as a "joke" were "loose, figurative or hyperbolic" statements and were therefore unactionable.

The court likewise dismissed the defamation claim against Xcentric because Intellect Art Media failed to cite affirmative statements made by Xcentric, despite a general allegation that Xcentric added "defamatory headings" in Milewski's post. The court also found that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act shields Xcentric from liability as “[nlo provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” 47 USCA § 230 (c) (1).

The court disposed of the products liability claim against Xcentric, reasoning that the website is probably a "service" rather than a "product," and that even if the Ripoff Report were a "product," Intellect Art had not proven it to be "defective."

The court summarily denied Intellect Art Media leave to amend the complaint to add the six other causes of action and denied Intellect Art Media's request for discovery to identify Does 1-5 because the Intellect Art Media failed to allege defamatory statements made by the anonymous posters.

The court did not dismiss the breach of contract claim against Milewksi, and transferred the claim to the Civil Court of the City of New York on jurisdictional grounds.

Details

Content Type: 

  • Text

Publication Medium: 

Website

Subject Area: 

  • Defamation
  • Reviews
  • Gripe Sites
  • Consumer Ratings and Reviews
  • User Comments or Submissions
Court Information & Documents

Jurisdiction: 

  • New York

Source of Law: 

  • New York

Court Name: 

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

Court Type: 

State

Case Number: 

117024/08

Relevant Documents: 

CMLP Information (Private)

Priority: 

1-High

CMLP Notes: 

-MW reviewing 10/1