Courts Becoming Busy With Blog Lawsuits
March was a busy month for lawsuits involving bloggers and webmasters. The court system taking them to task for defamatory statements, with one case becoming the first to go to trial and result in a liability verdict.
A legal system once tentative about taking on digital cases is braving the waters with more frequency. Most of the cases we’ve reported on have involved the statements of anonymous commentators, liability for which webmasters and bloggers have been repeatedly exonerated (or are expected to be). But these are different.
Banks v. Milum – Georgia
"Rafe Banks will never make one single move against me or this website because he knows that we have the witnesses to prove that he carried these drug dealer payoffs to [a] judge."
Those are the now famous last words of David Milum, of Forsyth County, Georgia, who owes Mr. Banks, Milum’s former attorney, $50,000 in compensatory damages. The first case the Media Law Resource Center is aware of that has actually saddled a webmaster with liability.
Milum was disappointed (to put it lightly) with Banks’ handling of his DUI case and fired Banks. When Banks refused to pay back the $3,000 retainer, Milum repeatedly accused Banks of bribing judges on behalf of drug dealers.
Milum couldn’t produce the witnesses he mentioned above.
Barrett-Jackson Auction Company, LLC v. ThumbCo – Arizona
David Clabuesch, a Michigan judge, was hoping his 1970 Hemi Barracuda would fetch upwards of a million dollars at an Arizona muscle car auction. When the car sold for just $300,000, Clabuesch wasn’t happy.
When I say he wasn’t happy, I mean that he chained the wheels after the auction, put up a sign that saying the sale was void, and accused the auctioneer of quick-gaveling the sale.
Though Clabeusch didn’t actually post anything on line (from what I gather), chat rooms and blogs had a field day talking about the auction. As such, Phoenix-based Barrett-Jackson sued Clabeusch on the grounds that his claims were damaging the company’s reputation.
Judge Clabuesch is preparing a lawsuit of his own.
Yoon v. Carney – California
ACLU activist Joanne Yoon’s job was, basically, to keep a close eye on the San Diego Minutemen while they held their rallies. The San Diego Minutemen don’t like her much. In fact, they’re kind of mean.
Through mass-circulated emails and blog posts, members of the Minutemen group, who’ve taken the responsibility upon themselves to monitor the US’s border with Mexico, called Yoon an "anorexic ACLU slut" and "a skank" who sleeps with "those little brown Border Hoppers" daily.
If untrue, those statements jump the line of opinion, and land square in the realm of libel.