NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) – For the moment, a New York law firm upset with online reviews has dropped its lawsuit against the website Pissedconsumer.com.
The site recently filed a memorandum in opposition to the Law Offices of N.M. Gehi's defamation complaint and request for injunctive relief in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Shortly after, on Oct. 3, the firm voluntarily dismissed its case without prejudice - meaning it may refile the claims in the future.
The lawsuit sought to hold the site liable for negative reviews regarding Gehi's "sexual dalliances." It was filed two years after a court victory for Pissedconsumer.com in a similar case.
The Randazza Legal Group, representing site operator Consumer Opinion, argued in a Sept. 19 opposition that under the Communications Decency Act, Consumer Opinion is a service provider and, as such, cannot be found liable as a publisher of or speaker of content that is not its own.
“Moreover, even if defendant created an ‘atmosphere’ for complaints, there is no basis to suggest defendant requires them to be libelous,” the defense wrote in the motion.
The Law Offices of N.M. Gehi is a New York-based law firm specializing in immigration.
Its principal Naresh Gehi sought to hold Consumer Opinion liable for defamation/libel and emotional distress stemming from alleged negative and harmful online comments about the law firm posted on the defendant’s website. Gehi requested a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order against the consumer website.
Gehi alleged in his complaint that two John Does posted comments that Gehi “only hires young 15 year old girls” and is “committing underage sexual dalliances.”
The plaintiff alleged that the negative postings went on to say that he is “incompetent,” “charges more than double” for services, and “ruthlessly targets Sikhs and Indian and Chinese immigrants for their life savings so please avoid him at all costs.”
Prior to removal to the U.S. District Court Eastern District of New York on Sept. 19, Gehi filed a request for judicial intervention, with accompanying memorandum, seeking a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order against Consumer Opinion, asking that it stop “editing or publishing any posts.
In its memorandum in opposition, the defense for Consumer Opinion argued that Gehi’s motion must be denied because Gehi "has no likelihood of success on the merits," he is not entitled to early discovery of the John Does because there is no cause, and the balance of equities does not warrant injunctive relief.
In addition, the defense argued that claims arising from the statements of one of the John Does are time barred under the statute of limitations for both defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress actions in New York, which is one year.
Further, the defense argues that the alleged statement that Gehi charges double for its services was a statement of opinion and “thus cannot be defamatory.”
The defense stated in its filing that the second claim — emotional distress — is not applicable by citing precedent that corporations cannot suffer emotional distress. It also argues that Gehi’s claim of emotional distress otherwise lacked merit and that Gehi could not show any irreparable harm that he claimed.
In October 2015, a Florida federal judge granted Consumer Opinion's motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit brought by Roca Labs.
A Twitter account related to Consumer Opinion tweeted examples of reviews on Pissedconsumer.com - tweets that included reviews of Roca Labs.
"(T)o hold Consumer Opinion and Opinion Corp. liable for their refusal or failure to remove third-party content or the effect of third parties’ posts would run afoul of Section 230 of the (Communications Decency Act)," wrote Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington.