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Eddie Murphy Beats Comedian’s Defamation Lawsuit

See on Scoop.itCalifornia SLAPP Law

Eddie Murphy has prevailed in a strange $50 million defamation lawsuit brought by a comedian named Brando Murphy.

Aaron Morris‘s insight:

The bigger question is how plaintiffs find attorneys willing to represent them in cases like this.

A comedian named Brando Murphy allegedly insinuated that he was the son of Eddie Murphy, to the point that he appeared with Richard Pryor’s son on the “Sons of Comedy” tour. When Eddie Murphy’s attorney sent a cease and desist letter (and accused him of stalking), Brando sued Eddie for defamation.

Eddie responded with an anti-SLAPP motion, and Brando was unable to show that he was more likely than not to prevail on his action. Motion granted. Brando has already appealed.

For all important anti-SLAPP news, go to California SLAPP Law.

See on www.hollywoodreporter.com

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Anti-SLAPP statute does not apply to statements made to HOA during board meetings | Lexology

See on Scoop.itCalifornia SLAPP Law

“In a recent opinion, the California Court of Appeal decided that a builder cannot use the anti-SLAPP statute to circumvent fraud-based claims where there were misrepresentations by the builder to the homeowners association regarding repairs for defects at the project.”

Aaron Morris‘s insight:

The use of the anti-SLAPP statute was doomed from the start, but it was a novel attempt. During the time that the HOA board was still dominated by the developer’s own employees, it voted to charge the members for certain repairs. A later Board determined that the developer was responsible for the repairs, and sued to recover the costs of the repairs. The developer brought an anti-SLAPP motion, unsuccessfully claiming that the vote of the developer-dominated Board was protected speech.

See on www.lexology.com

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California Court: We Won’t Issue A Subpoena To Identify Someone Just To Prove ‘Someone Is Wrong On The Internet’ | Techdirt

See on Scoop.itCalifornia SLAPP Law

Click on the “Scoop.it” link for an interesting article on Internet anonymity. In essence, someone commented on about a blog post about a lawsuit. The person claimed to be an employee of one of the parties to the litigation, so the other side sought to subpoena the records to determine the identity of the person who made the post. Incredibly, the trial court ordered that the information be turned over, completely ignoring one’s right to remain anonymous on the Internet. On appeal from the order, the Court of Appeal reversed, stating:

“Visitor has done nothing more than provide commentary about an ongoing public dispute in a forum that could hardly be more obscure—the busy online comments section of a digital trade newspaper. Such commentary has become ubiquitous on the Internet and is widely perceived to carry no indicium of reliability and little weight. We will not lightly lend the subpoena power of the courts to prove, in essence, that Someone Is Wrong On The Internet.”

See on www.techdirt.com

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California Supreme Court to decide in GLAD v. CNN whether state Disabled Persons Act’s “public accommodations” include websites

 

 

 

 

 

 

See on Scoop.itCalifornia SLAPP Law

 

Aaron Morris‘s insight:

This is an interesting disability case with anti-SLAPP implications.  GLAD (an advocacy group for the deaf) brought an action against CNN, claiming that its failure to include closed captioning on all the videos it posts on its website, amounted to discrimination. CNN responded with an anti-SLAPP motion, which was denied by the District Court.

The appellate court, after observing that there was no dispute whether CNN’s online videos involved matters of public concern, held that the decision not to use captions did fall under the anti-SLAPP statute, and determined that GLAD was not likely to prevail on action since it could not show intentional discrimination based on disability.  The court accepted CNN.com’s decision to display videos without captions prior to FCC captioning rules, even if not itself an exercise of free speech, as conduct “in furtherance” of free speech rights, especially given CNN’s concerns about potential costs, delay, and inaccuracies if forced to caption prematurely.

On a very interesting final note, the 9th Circuit’s referred GLAD v. CNN to the California Supreme Court for a determination of whether the DPA applies to online “places”. The California Supreme Court will now make a definitive statement as to whether websites have to comply with disability requirements.

Click on the “Scoop.it” link above for a more detailed discussion of this important holding. 

See on www.lexology.com

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Yelp Sues the McMillan Law Group, Claiming it Posted Fake Reviews

YelpI get probably two calls a month from potential clients, complaining that after they refused to subscribe to Yelp’s services, Yelp responded by removing most or all of their positive reviews. If true, then Yelp cannot seriously contend that it is interested in the integrity of its reviews.

The claims seem supported by a recent action by Yelp. In this case, a small San Diego law firm, the McMillan Law Group, subscribed to Yelp’s services, allegedly based on representations that were made about the number of page views it would receive. When the results fell below what the McMillan Law Group says was promised, it demanded a refund. Yelp balked, and the law firm sued in small claims court. The firm prevailed, and obtained a $2,700 judgment against Yelp.

Yelp appealed, and doubled-down by filing its own action back against the McMillan Law Group. It seems that Yelp had been busy looking into the law firm’s positive reviews, and decided that they did not all adhere to Yelp’s terms of use. Yelp’s complaint is a sight to behold, alleging that the McMillan Law Group is liable for breach of contract, intentional interference with contractual relations, unfair competition and false advertising. Yelp alleges:

“The McMillan Law Group, a San Diego law firm specializing in bankruptcy, exemplifies the behavior that Yelp combats daily through its algorithms and investigations—the planting of fake reviews intended to sway potential clients with false testimonials. The McMillan Law Group’s efforts to mislead consumers are particularly brazen and disappointing given they have targeted some of the most vulnerable consumers of all—individuals who may be facing bankruptcy and who are looking for potential legal representation.”

In the complaint, Yelp details its investigative results, alleging that multiple Yelp user accounts were created from a computer located at the same McMillan Law Group IP address used to create reviews about that law firm.

In an interview with Bloomberg Law, Julian McMillan stated, “It’s bullying tactics. I get it. They want me to spend some money but I just don’t see how they come a winner in this [from a PR standpoint].”

As McMillan also notes, Yelp’s lawsuit seems like a really bone-headed move from a discovery standpoint. Since Yelp is claiming that false reviews by the McMillan Law Group have interfered with its contractual relations and caused it damages, it has now made all of its business practices and income fair game for discovery. It will also be very interesting to learn whether Yelp routinely brings such lawsuits to maintain the integrity of its reviews, or does so only in response to being sued.

For a detailed discussion of the love fest between Yelp and the McMillan Law Group, see the article at Bloomberg Law.

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Gloating Over $5,000 Settlement Costs Parents $234,011.87

Canadian Teacher, eh?Some callers to my office, wanting to sue for defamation because someone said terrible, false and hurtful things about them, are disappointed to learn that they cannot seek legal action because the speech falls under a privilege. By definition, “privileged” speech can never be defamatory, and therefore cannot support a defamation action.

Examples? Speaking at a City Council meeting, testifying in court, or filing a police report – all privileged speech. (There are of course exceptions to every rule of law, but my New Year’s resolution was to write shorter articles.) So, if someone trashes you from the witness stand in court, there is nothing you can do about it from a defamation standpoint. (Although the person could be criminally liable for perjury. Sorry, couldn’t let that one go.)

“BUT,” I tell the caller, “if the person steps out of court and makes the same statements, you have them.”

I ran across this case out of Canada that so beautifully illustrates the point, eh. A teacher allegedly says terrible things about a student in front of the class. Parents sue. On the day of trial, parents agree to settle for $5,000 with no admission of wrongdoing by the teacher.

But then they felt compelled to gloat. The walked out to waiting media, and said: “She’s a marked lady and before she makes any more unprofessional moves, she’ll have to think twice.”

Wait a second parents, you just agreed that there was no admission of liability, so how is she marked or unprofessional?  Now it was the teacher’s turn to be miffed. The teacher sued, and a court awarded $234,011.87. The parents appealed, but the appeal court not only upheld the verdict, it added insult to injury by spotting an error in the trial court’s math, and added $552. Ouch.

The parents could have said the exact same thing INSIDE the courtroom, and the media could have reported those statements, and the parents would have been fine. But when they left the courtroom, they stepped out of the defamation immunity bubble and got nailed.

 

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Aaron Morris, Attorney
Aaron Morris
Morris & Stone, LLP

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