Pamela Boling probably didn’t expect to end up in court when she hired iQTAXX to assist with filing special paperwork with the IRS. However, when she found out that they hadn’t done the work they promised and she had paid for, she turned to YELP to get assistance, posting a negative review and her personal experience. That’s how she ended up getting sued. That’s when she turned to Marc Randazza, one of the Las Vegas’ heavy hitting attorneys that knows how to bring down the legal hammer when it’s needed to address the rights of consumers.
The case itself isn’t that hard to understand: Boling believed that iQTAXX hadn’t done the services they promised, she posted a review entitled “This is MALPRACTICE” order to inform the public and get redress from the business. In fact, it almost worked: according to Boling, iQTAXX spoke to her and assured her that the work was done, and she adjusted the review. According to her she found from the IRS the work still hadn’t been done.
That’s when she was soon served with a lawsuit alleging she had libeled the company and hurt their ability to do business.
In response, attorney Marc Randazza filed an Anti-SLAPP Motion under NRS 41.660 to dismiss the case immediately and seek a financial penalty against the plaintiff plus reasonable attorney fees. Anti-SLAPP (ANTI-Strategic lawsuit against public participation) laws have been passed by several states to help protect the rights of consumers, journalists, bloggers, to share information that would be in the public interest. Usually companies with an economic advantage will use “SLAPP” lawsuits to attempt to chill both public debate on issues and prevent consumers from sharing information.
The court found on April 7th, that the lawsuit brought by iQTAXX was indeed an attempt to stifle public discussion on their alleged bad practices and that the defendant was entitled for an award of $1,000 plus attorney fees for being required to defend herself in court. The most important part of the case seems to be that that even though the defendant may have used hyperbole in her review, she was still protected by First Amendment in her hyperbole.
Randazza explained to PaceVegas.com that the important of these cases are simple:
The only way that an economy functions is if people can share their opinions about the goods and services they consume. If a company tries to put its finger on the scale of public opinion by bullying those with a negative opinion, the whole system breaks down. It isn’t just an offense against the reviewer, it is an offense against other consumers as well.
The Supreme Court Echoes Randazza, and said stated in Gertz vs. Robert Welch, that statements and rhetoric even in hyperbole are no actionable, and that
There is no such thing as a false idea. However pernicious an opinion may seem, we depend for its correction not on the conscience of judges and juries but on the competition of other ideas.
The Nevada anti-SLAPP statute has been used several times recently to defend again libel cases, including a well known case in which trust-fund Instagram playboy Dan Bilzerian sued TheDirty.com for reporting on his possible STDs, and then almost immediately turned around and sued TMZ for reporting that he was suing TheDirty.com for reporting on his possible STDs.
The Court in that case found that since Dan Bilzerian is a public figure, and even though he may not have any STDs, the reporting by TMZ.com is indeed protected by the First Amendment as it concerns an interest of public interest.
A report from Bloomberg said that even though TMZ “may have employed colorful language” there was no indication it was done with malice, and in fact, “rather than exhibiting reckless disregard for the Truth, TMZ should be commended for doing its homework. In fact, the average reader might have assumed that Mr. Bilzerian had more serious STD than chlamydia had TMZ confined its reporting to the allegations…”
Yes, Bloomberg wrote the words you never thought you’d hear: “TMZ should be commended.”
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