Internet Defamation got you down? The owners behind the Cozy Kittens website, depicting absolutely adorable and exotic purebreds and crossbreeds of Persian and Himalayan cats, have been struggling in a fight to remove allegedly defamatory and libelous posts and comments about their cattery business from a consumer review website.
The online defamation case is in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit, Johnson v. Arden, 2010 WL 3023660 (8th Cir. August 4, 2010). Susan and Robert Johnson who own and operate Cozy Kittens Cattery, LLC, brought this internet libel lawsuit against: the consumer review site www.ComplaintsBoard.com, two alleged publishers Elizabeth Arden and Michelle Reitenger, and two ComplaintsBoard users who comment on a complaint thread post about the Johnsons’ exotic Persian and Himalayan cattery business.
The Johnsons’ complaint alleges against all six defendants: injurious falsehood, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress; and trademark infringement against Heineman in particular for his use of the Johnsons’ ‘COZY KITTENS’ trademark in the phrase "Cozy Kittens and Cuddly Cats" on used on his competing website www.BoutiqueKittens.com.
“ComplaintBoard's eligibility for 230's immunity wasn't discussed, but that should be an easy case despite the conspiracy-esque allegations. InMotion's eligibility for 230, as a service provider to the service provider, is an even easier call--indeed, the savvy district court raised the 230 defense sua sponte!--and the Eighth Circuit appropriately treats it as such in what I believe is the first Eighth Circuit opinion on 230. The court says, "It is undisputed that InMotion did not originate the material that the Johnsons deem damaging," and that pretty much ends the inquiry. The court concludes: "we decline the Johnsons' invitation to construe § 230(c)(1) as permitting liability against InMotion for material originating with a third party."
This internet libel case was originally filed in state court but was subsequently removed to federal court by Heineman. Heineman then moved to dismiss the case in federal court for improper venue stemming from a lack of personal jurisdiction. Internet lawyer Eric Goldman also commented on the matter of jurisdiction over Heineman as a result of the defamatory posts;
“The court rejects plaintiff's home court jurisdiction over Heineman under the Effects Test despite some highly critical comments about the plaintiff's business. Courts have been splitting about the jurisdictional effects of gripe postings, so it's great to see the Eighth Circuit establish that a gripe post doesn't automatically confer jurisdiction in plaintiff's home court.”
This case contained some other interesting and/or quirky results. CMLP summarized the results of the internet case;
“Before removal, the state court entered a default judgment against Melanie Lowry, who did not appear in the case. Lowry later challenged the default judgment by sending a letter to the federal district judge.
InMotion moved to dismiss the complaint in state court (grounds unknown), but did not refile the motion in federal court after removal. Based on InMotion's failure to answer or file a motion to dismiss in federal court, the Johnsons moved for entry of a default judgment against it. InMotion then appeared, arguing that the court should deny the Johnsons' motion for entry of default and hear its motion to dismiss on the merits.
Arden, Reitenger, and ComplaintsBoard.com have not appeared in the federal action. The reason for this is not clear -- they may have defaulted in the state court action, they may have settled with the Johnsons, or they may never have been served in the first place. The disputed comments no longer appear on ComplaintsBoard.com.”
If any of this legal jargon has wiped the morning smile off your face, visit the Cozy Kittens top pictures of the week to refresh your mind with what this internet libel lawsuit was initiated to protect.
If you have any questions about whether you should sue for online defamation, slander, or libel, contact a qualified internet defamation attorney for an expert evaluation concerning your particular issue.