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Defamatory Internet Posts:Jury awards $11.3M

     
7:00 pm on Oct 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Legal analysts say the Sept. 19 award by a jury in Broward County, Fla. — first reported Friday by the Daily Business Review — represents the largest such judgment over postings on an Internet blog or message board.

[usatoday.com...]

7:56 pm on Oct 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Wow, that's a huge award!

If there's a silver lining in this from a webmaster standpoint, it's that the judgment was against the person making the defamatory posts, not against the forum operator. I suspect, though, that these kind of lawsuits typically name everyone remotely connected with the issue.

11:22 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I guess this is my last post. :)

[edited by: Jon_King at 11:23 am (utc) on Oct. 12, 2006]

11:49 am on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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"I'm sure (Bock) doesn't have $1 million, let alone $11 million, but
...

Well - that's a really useful way to engage the legal system them isn't it?

1:48 pm on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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After Bock didn't offer a defense, a Broward Circuit Court judge found in favor of Scheff.

Apparently, since Brock did not have an attorney nor not show up for court, the case was automatically ruled in favor of Scheff. Since this was not a "real" trial with arguments from both sides and then a formal judgment, would this even set a legal precedent?

1:55 pm on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Very interesting. I too would like to hear the other side of the story.

"The jury determined this was a significant enough issue. It's not just somebody's feelings are hurt; it's somebody's reputation is ruined."
1:59 pm on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Was about to point the same thing out, BetterSEO. It wasn't even a case, the accused didn't show. It was a default judgement, no?
2:38 pm on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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From what I read in the article, it is not even clear that the defendant got the court notices. (Bock is the defendant)
I think she might have been busy with securing a place to live, and if that was set, then a job...

When Katrina hit in August 2005, Bock's house was flooded and she moved temporarily to Texas before returning to Louisiana last June. Court papers that Scheff and her attorney David H. Pollack mailed to Bock were returned to Pollack's office in Miami.

[edited by: Tapolyai at 2:40 pm (utc) on Oct. 12, 2006]

2:58 pm on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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the jury never heard the other side, but what you say can come back and haunt you.
3:00 pm on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Can someone here start calling me names too?
3:05 pm on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I will call you "Billy", Billy.

Well, that's an interesting case nonetheless. Too bad it never really went to trial, but perhaps it will be appealed. In some ways I doubt an 11 million award will stand. If I call someone on the street a "crook", will they come sue me and win $11M? Hardly.

3:30 pm on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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IMHO, without hearing the other side, I think that even without being able to collect the $11 million dollars, the point is, that you should not be able to damage someones reputation and ruin their business and get away with it.

Since we do not know both sides, if this was just a petty argument, and Bock decided to post that someone is a crook, fraud, thief, or whatever, especially in a blog where someones customers "meet" to compare businesses, she really had no right to do it unless she had proof that she was telling the truth.

I had a similar experience which was totally unfounded, but someone was posting lies about me, but hey, I never thought a case like that would win! ;-)

So many of us make our living on the internet. A company could be ruined by someone going around posting derogatory comments about a company all over the internet. I suspect a lot of business could be lost, etc. I say HOORAY, for this judge.

Don't post derogatory comments about a business online UNLESS, you have proof of their crimes and can back it up. I think this is the message that was sent here.

Just my two cents!

4:34 pm on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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would this even set a legal precedent?

Most certainly. Interestingly, similar cases have ruled that the owners of the forum, and not just the slanderer, are also liable.

Be careful what you say online. The days of anonymous drive by mud slinging are coming to an end.

4:50 pm on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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>> Can someone here start calling me names too?

I assume you want $11 mil, and nothing less, so you are a "crook," a "con artist" and a "fraud." ;)

On another note, I don't think this sets a precendent, it just serves as a reminder that blogs are no different from any other medium. The precendent would have been had the other side fought back, and argued the case and the amount of damages.

5:02 pm on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Wow, I wish we could all do this in real life. We could get eyewitnesses.
6:44 pm on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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The downside of this is that it is very difficult to expose real frauds and scams. Some of the operators have enough money to sue you. In forums, I routinely remove "CompanyX is a scam" posts, even when it is quite evident that CompanyX IS a scam.
7:53 pm on Oct 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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That is an important judgement and everyone that runs an online community/blog needs to understand the implications.
12:11 am on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Interestingly, similar cases have ruled that the owners of the forum, and not just the slanderer, are also liable.

Care to back that up? Because the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals wholeheartedly disagrees with you :)
[wired.com...]
12:26 am on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Interestingly, similar cases have ruled that the owners of the forum, and not just the slanderer, are also liable.
Could you point to one?
12:41 am on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I routinely remove "CompanyX is a scam" posts, even when it is quite evident that CompanyX is a scam.

That's a big reason why I would never add a forum to my site.

It gives me an idea, though. Next April Fool's day, whaddya say we have a little fun with Brett and the moderators?

:-)

3:58 am on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Jokes Apart,

We had a customer who we were very patient with for a while...

Person (Customer) worked for a regional newspaper and after going on a shopping spree on our site as well as 4 of our competitors and buying over 4k worth of widgets at all mentioned sites tried to return the product after 90 days claiming that a spouse was a scientist and performed some molecular analysis which confirmed that our “stuff” was faked. All return policies state that Max Return date is 30 Days. After Getting, most likely, the same response from all the merchants Customer went Koo-Koo. Started posting comments on bunch of blogs and forums about how the ethnicity of the widgets that we realize is very questionable and even sent us an email about how a big article will appear in a few newspapers. Cost, just us, 700 bucks to prove the point by submitting a selection of few widgets to the national authority in US to get a certificate of ethnicity for the products sold. Sure all the widgets were authentic.

Crazy Shopper even threatened us to file a law suit as well as shut down the businesses due to SCAM Practices.

Well I have contacted an Attorney, who asks if everything was done by the book. Of course I said, as always. Given an advice that then there is nothing to worry about I have contacted an employer (confirmed by IP address!) of the person (customer) and when I was asked why and what was the reason for the enquiry, I simply explained myself!

Guess what, Shopper got fired with in 2 weeks for using company equipment for personal Use.

HA HA HA.

Here is the kicker..

We left the posts on the BLOGS alone; just to see what will happen.

To date: we have a counter of how much sales those BLAH BLAH notes made us.

Guess how much?...

edited:
P.S. posts had links, we had a genuine product.

6:20 am on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

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"certificate of ethnicity"

would this be similar to a "race card"?

12:24 pm on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

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No,

something Like SSL Cert. from verisign

1:09 am on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

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This creates a great tool now against the crusty mouthed people of the world.

In the case of unjustified complaining, one can simply send in the direction of the poster, and/or the web-site owner and/or the host an:

- e-mail with the above link.

and if that does not work

- a letter from your attorney with a reference to the above mentioned case.

I predict that most of this crusty mouthed class will just remove whatever they have posted if they can.

I am all for anything that makes this a happier world!

1:45 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

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[answers.com...] Vs. [answers.com...] somehow I doubt this ever happened...
3:59 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I also hope this guy wins, and wins big time:
"A Pittsburgh lawyer who claims his reputation is being harmed by comments posted by purported ex-girlfriends on a Miami-based Web site has filed a defamation lawsuit against the site operator and her company in Pennsylvania state court....
...a woman who posted a comment about his having herpes and fathering multiple children, which he says is not true...
...Hollis' lawsuit said he and his attorney asked Joseph to take down the comment, but she refused."
[law.com...]

according to him they also said that he is a homosexual or bisexual and had infected a woman. I don't know what the webmaster is thinking.

6:21 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Most certainly. Interestingly, similar cases have ruled that the owners of the forum, and not just the slanderer, are also liable.

You said "Most certainly" in response to legal precedent being set by a default judgement. I am not a lawyer, but I suspect that is not the case and that precedent is not being set by every default judgement that takes place out there. I would bet a significant amount of money on that.

8:31 pm on Oct 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Free speech is definately not without consequence.

If you are going to accuse someone of something in a blog, you better have proof. If you don't have proof it's best you move on or be prepared to fight ($$$).

Now this lady is ruined financially with an $11,300,000.00 judgment sitting on her credit report, plus the plaintiff can garnish up to 25% of her paycheck until the $11.3 million is paid, all over a blog post. Not worth it.

3:45 am on Oct 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

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What about the case where the forum owner claims copyright over all content added to the site? Would this open them up to being sued as well?
3:50 am on Oct 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

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>> What about the case where the forum owner claims copyright over all content added to the site? Would this open them up to being sued as well?

I don't think so, but it's just an opinion based on what I remember reading. Free salt offered to take my advice with :)

The only problem is if the forums are actively moderated and the forum owner just happened :) to miss the libelous one, or if the post are moderated and he let that go through.

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