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Franchisee Nemet Chevrolet lost a defamation suit against a website which posted criticism of the dealership.
Nemet Chevrolet Ltd v. ConsumerAffairs.com Inc (Dec. 29, 2009) pitted a franchisee against a website which hosted blog comments critical of the dealership sales practices. Queens (NY)-based Nemet alleged that the statements were defamatory.
While federal law customarily provides protection to the website hosting public comments, Nemet attempted to circumvent the statute by claiming that the website solicited complaints and assisted prospective litigants against Nemet.
In a brief opinion, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reviewed the rationale and statutory language of the federal statute, and dismissed the suit. The decision marks the latest of a series of US court decisions strengthening the legal footing of website hosts. Recently many franchisors have complained about franchisee postings; here we see that the courts are following the mandate of Congress in protecting free speech.
Of course a statement which is defamatory would still be actionable as against the author of the statement. The reason that plaintiffs target the web host (such as Mr. MauMau) is that it is often difficult (if not impossible) to identify the author, and plaintiffs hope that the mere threat of legal action will force web hosts to censor comments on the internet.
|Nemet ED Va Order dismissing on CDA grounds.pdf||50.78 KB|
|Nemet v. Consumer Affairs Appellate Decision.pdf||859.71 KB|
|Nemet v. Consumer Affairs- Motion to Dismiss.pdf||15.36 KB|
|Nemet- Brief in Support of Motion to Dismiss.pdf||43.69 KB|
|Nemet Chevrolet - Complaint.pdf||719.52 KB|