We all know the stories about big companies and well-heeled individuals filing nuisance lawsuits against whistleblowers, competitors, or other troublemakers just to shut these less-resourceful parties up. There’s a name for that sort of lawsuit, and — at least in some states — there are ways for defendants to fight back. However, even the best available remedies are far from perfect. [More]
Imagine you run a local news site and you’re working on a great new story about the town’s largest employer that uncovers some very bad behavior. You’re all set to publish, then you receive notice that this company has filed a lawsuit against you for something frivolous, like copyright or trademark infringement, that could never be proven at trial — but which could bankrupt you and your small-time operation long before it ever gets to that point. It’s a practice known as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) and it’s a not-uncommon way for deep-pocketed companies and individuals to try to intimidate potential whistleblowers and others into remaining quiet. [More]
Most of the time, consumer interactions with businesses go just fine. We give a company our money, they provide us with goods or services, and everyone is happy. But sometimes, things go awry. The customer isn’t happy, the business doesn’t make it right, and we complain: not just to the business, but to Facebook, Twitter, or Yelp. And that, too often, is when the story starts to get even uglier.
Deep-pocketed companies have a long history of filing frivolous lawsuits with the sole intent of putting defendants through the expensive legal wringer. This sort of courtroom bullying is known as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) and several states have Anti-SLAPP laws to deter this type of abuse. Plaintiffs that file these lawsuits can face penalties, but one question being considered by a California appeals court is whether plaintiffs’ lawyers should be held accountable for allowing their clients to behave badly. [More]
A Texas mother took her child to a dentist who only works on children based on the referral of the family’s regular dentist. She didn’t really like the specialist, and wrote a relatively short, clear Yelp review explaining why. That got her a letter from the dentist’s attorney ordering her to take down her review, OR ELSE. [More]
The owner of an eBay business who sued an unhappy customer over a negative feedback item is contrite. Mostly, he’s very sorry that he (allegedly) never read the lawsuit filed on his behalf accusing his customer of defamation. He should probably also be sorry that the customer has a relative who works in the litigation department of consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. The seller has used lawsuits to bully customers into retracting feedback before, and may have done it again if not for Public Citizen.
The Columbus Dispatch says that the Supreme Court of Ohio has decided that its perfectly OK for Ohio businesses to sue residents of other states for defamatory comments made on the Internet, as long as people from Ohio saw the comments.
The New York Times has an article about Justin Kurtz, the college student who angered the owner of T&J Towing by creating a Facebook page about the company and who is now fighting a $750k defamation lawsuit. That sort of lawsuit–the kind meant to intimidate an opponent into silence–is called a “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” or Slapp. Now two Representatives are sponsoring a bill that would create a federal anti-Slapp law to protect consumers from vengeful businesses.