Monthly Archives: March 2011

A Florida Boating Accident Leads to an Internet Defamation Lawsuit

There’s a doozie of an online defamation lawsuit currently working its way through the Florida courts. Dr. Robert Nicosia is facing both criminal and civil suits due to 2009 boating accident. To make matters more complicated, Nicosia has also filed a suit against boating accident witness, Lisa Rollins, which alleges online defamation. Rollins has also filed a countersuit against Nicosia, which accuses the doctor of several things including, “stifling debate”.

The catalytic incident occurred one afternoon in 2009 when Dr. Nicosia was returning to St. Lucie Inlet after a fishing trip. Rollins and Murphy happened to be diving in the same vicinity. Catastrophe struck when Murphy got caught in the boat’s machinations. The accident resulted the amputation of both Murphy’s legs.

What occurred directly after the collision has been a topic of much debate in the ensuing lawsuits. The divers and their supporters insist that Dr. Nicosia was driving recklessly and did not immediately jump to the aid of Murphy upon realizing the diver had been injured. Nicosia, however, has testified that the divers did not have proper diving flags displayed and cites that as the cause of the horrible accident.

Many Palm Beach locals convened on a popular area website, spearboard.com, where Rollins and three other users posted an online petition calling for the removal of Dr. Nicosia’s medical license. Among other accusations, the petition claimed the doctor had not followed the Hippocratic Oath by failing to immediately tend to Murphy.

Faced with criminal charges, Dr. Nicosia decided to file a civil defamation lawsuit against his Internet detractors. The suit asserted that Nicosia’s reputation as a doctor was badly damaged because of the online attacks. Appalled by Nicosia’s Internet defamation lawsuit, Rollins decided to submit a counter-suit which accuses the doctor of inhibiting public debate and “witness tampering”.

Since United States defamation law differentiates between public and private Citizens, Rollins’ attorneys plan to propose that due to the notoriety from the case, Dr. Nicosia should be considered a public figure and therefore, in the absence of actual malice, does not have enough evidence for a defamation trial.

Without being privy to all the evidence in the case, it would be foolish to wager a guess as to who will be left standing. Presently, however, Rollins, Murphy and Nicosia are claiming emotional distress and all parties seem confident in their claims.

Keep up with the latest online defamation lawsuit news by subscribing to our blog’s RSS feed. If you’re in search of an attorney to help with an Internet defamation case, contact us. The Kelly Law Firm specializes in online law and has helped hundreds of people restore their Internet reputations.

Is Free Speech a Valid Defense Against Internet Defamation?

The People vs. Larry Flynt was a great flick. Woody Harrelson played the notoriously difficult Hustler founder, Larry Flint, and Courtney Love portrayed Flynt’s, drug-addled wife, Althea.

We often hear of life imitating art; in the case of Courtney Love, that almost happened earlier this month. Like her character in the movie, Love was on her way to a jury-seated, defamation trial.

Courtney Love’s Real-Life Defamation Legal Problems

In 2009, Courtney Love took to Twitter and proceeded to pump out a 20-minute, unflattering diatribe about fashion designer, Dawn Simorangkir (a.k.a., “The Boudoir Queen”). In her tirade, Love decided to tell the Internet that Simorangkir was a drug-dealing Madame who lost her kids over an assault and battery incident.

Dawn Simorangkir, armed with proof that Love’s claims were untrue, slapped the rocker with a defamation lawsuit. It was expected to be the first high-profile, Twitter-defamation suit to be heard in court by a jury. Alas, after considerable negotiations, the two sides reached a settlement in which Love agreed to pay Simorangkir $430,000 over the next three years.

The First Amendment Defamation Defense

When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Larry Flynt over Jerry Falwell, one of the main legal points to emerge from the decision was that statements and works in question had to exude a “reasonable expectation of truth”. Since Flint’s outhouse cartoon of Falwell was recognized by most to be a satirical joke, the Reverend’s claims of defamation fell flat. Moreover, Flynt and his lawyers made a strong case for free speech.

Based on deposition transcripts, Courtney Love planned to use a First Amendment defense if her Internet defamation case had gone to trial. It was expected Love would testify that her tweets were opinions. Legal eagles were eager to see this case heard by a jury. It would have set a standard for whether or not, in the eyes of the law, Twitter was considered a publication and if tweeters were bound to traditional journalistic standards.

Considering that defamation law currently differs for those leading public and private lives, it would have been interesting to see if the jury felt that famous people should be held to a more stringent, journalistic twitter standard than the average Citizen.

Update: Uh-oh, it looks like Courtney Love has wandered into another Twitter defamation lawsuit.

If you are in need of a lawyer to help negotiate an Internet defamation case, Kelly / Warner Law can help. We specialize in Internet law and have helped hundreds reclaim their online reputations

Court Orders Online News Publications to Reveal Sources in Internet Defamation Lawsuit

This month, an Indianapolis court ruled in favor of an Internet defamation claimant when it ordered a news outlet to reveal identifying information about anonymous posters. This Marion County edict could set legal precedence that makes the Web a little less user friendly for the average American.

Internet defamation is becoming a prevalent problem. Nowadays, nearly every website allows for anonymous commenting. As our obsession with online pontificating grows, inevitably, the number of internet defamation cases will also increase.

In recent years, lawmakers have been wrestling with online defamation laws. On the one hand, statutes must protect basic privacy rights and the First Amendment freedoms of the Web; however, many feel that online libel regulations must be established to guard against unfair business practices and unethical personal attacks.

Former CEO of Junior Achievement of Central Indiana, Jeffery Miller, is spitting mad. After working for the organization for over 15 years, Miller’s name became entangled in a misuse of funds scandal. As it often happens, several private individuals convinced of Miller’s guilt took to the Internet and posted anonymous comments accusing Jeffery of misappropriating funds.

Having not been convicted of the crime, Mr. Miller decided to sue for defamation of character, claiming the comments caused him both psychological and emotional harm. But in order to file the suit, he’d first have to find out the names of the offending parties.

Like most news outlets, however, the websites on which the allegedly libellous statements were published refused to hand over the information. Dennis Ryerson, editor of the Indianapolis Star, pointed out that as a press entity, his publication goes to great lengths to “protect the identity of all sources at all levels”.

It will be interesting to see if this Indianapolis Internet defamation ruling will have an effect on other states’ laws. Privacy and Freedom of speech advocates are concerned about the legal precedence this case sets. It’s hypothesized that the decision could have a chilling effect on the free press. The argument goes, like communist Russia, people will be less likely to speak out if they fear exposure.

If you are currently fighting an Internet defamation claim, we can help. The Kelly Firm specializes in Internet law and enjoy much success when it comes to clearing up online libel lawsuits. If you’re in need of help, contact us today for a free consultation. Just fill out the form to your right and one of our team members will be in touch!