Indiana SLAPP Stories
Sued for Speaking Out in Indiana!
- In 2008, the Canadian pharmacy-benefits company CanaRx sued Indiana television station WISH-TV over a November 2007 broadcast featuring information gleaned from FDA reports about dangerous fillers in drugs bought online. CanaRx claimed general statements attributed to an FDA spokesperson and the reporter’s reference to the company as a “pharmacy,” rather than a “pharmacy-benefits company,” injured its reputation or “excited derogatory feelings or opinions about the company.” Canarx Services, Inc. v. Lin Television Corporation (S.D. Ind., 1:07-cv-1482-LJM-JMS).
- In 2002, Indianapolis lawyer Clifford Shepard sued the TheMooresville/Decatur Times for defamation after The Times published a story quoting another lawyer calling Shepard a liar. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss, holding that The Times published the article in furtherance of its free speech rights on a public issue and that the article was published in good faith with a reasonable basis in law and fact. The court also ordered Mr. Shepard to pay The Times more than $36,000 in fees and costs. Mr. Shepard then appealed the ruling, which the appellate court affirmed. Shepard v. Mooresville/Decatur Times.
- In 2001, a publicly-traded corporation brought a suit in Indiana against various “John Doe” defendants arising out of Internet chat room postings that the corporation claimed were defamatory. Because it feared “economic harm” from its prosecution of the lawsuit, the company sought to proceed anonymously, identifying itself in its complaint only as “Anonymous Publicly Traded Company.” But while it sought to proceed anonymously, the corporation subpoenaed America Online (AOL) for the identities of each of the anonymous chat room posters. Once a court held that the company could not proceed anonymously, it deemed the effort of a lawsuit too much and dropped the suit. America Online Inc. v. Anonymous Publicly Traded Company, 2001 Va. Lexis 38 (Va. Sup. Ct. 2001).
Sued for Speaking Out across the Country!
- In 2009, parents of children in a charter school raised issues in their online chat room about management, and improper relationships between management and the board of directors. The head of the school responded by suing six of the parents for defamation, alleging $150,000 in damages. The defamation suit, Brown v. Agora Parents Association, is ongoing in Montgomery county, Pennsylvania, even as the parents’ statements sparked a probe by the Department of Education, which has issued an ultimatum to the charter school board to either cancel a contract with the school founder’s management company and resign, or face revocation the school’s operating charter.
- In November of 2008, Texas developer George Royall sued the author of a book about an eminent domain development agreement that benefitted Royall. Displeased with the negative publicity, Royall sued the book’s author, its publisher, a book reviewer and the newspaper that published the review, and even Law Professor Richard Epstein, who had only written an introduction on the book’s dust jacket! The suit is actually Royall’s second in response to statements made about the development deal. In 2004, he sued the owners of two companies affected by the development deal who complained against his actions. See Royall v. Wright Gore, Jr., et. al., No. 29996 (2009) and Royall v. Main, et. al., No. DC-08-13480-B (2009).
- In April 2007, KinderUSA demanded that Yale University Press redact statements in a book it had published by author Dr. Matthew Levitt, which describes KinderUSA as a charitable front for terror financing. Yale Press refused to redact the statements, so KinderUSA brought suit against Yale Press, Levitt and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, alleging $500,000 in damages. KinderUSA v. The Washington Institute of Near East Policy, Matthew Levitt, and Yale University Press, Case No. BC370155 (filed Apr. 26, 2007).
- In 1986, Joseph Scheidler and a handful of other pro-life leaders formed a nationwide coalition called the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN) and began engaging in a concerted protest and outreach effort to persuade women to avoid abortion. In response to the protests, the National Organization for Women (NOW) and two abortion clinics sued Scheidler, PLAN and several other defendants, alleging violations of federal anti-trust laws and a conspiracy to shut down all abortion providers. In 1989, NOW added extortion and federal conspiracy charges to the lawsuit. The case wound its way to the U.S. Supreme Court three times before, in 2006, twenty years after NOW first filed suit, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of Scheidler. Now v. Scheidler, 547 U.S. 9 (2006).
- In 2005 a California real estate developer offered local appraiser Michael Stickney $100,000 to submit an inflated estimate for the value of an apartment property he planned to buy. Stickney went to the police, and wore a wire to the next few meetings with the developer. As a result of those communications, the district attorney launched an investigation, and criminal charges were filed against the developer. The developer then sued Stickney and others on thirteen separate causes of action ranging from slander to professional negligence, and issued subpoenas to Stickney and many unrelated parties, asking for personal and embarrassing information about Stickney, which he appeared to want to use to intimidate Stickney against testifying in the criminal case. Gaurano v. Stickney, San Bernardino Superior Ct. No.: S-1500-CV 257485 SPC.
- · In 2005, the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB) sued the Boston Herald, the local Fox-TV network and fifteen other defendants, eight of which were media defendants, for defamation and civil conspiracy because of stories about the ISB’s potential ties to terrorist organizations, and the propriety of a below-value land sale to the ISB. After two years of legal wrangling and as the parties began to take discovery, two of ISB’s trustees resigned, and shortly thereafter, the ISB voluntarily dismissed its suit as to all seventeen defendants. Islamic Society of Boston v. Boston Herald, et. al. (Mass. Super. Ct. July 20, 2006).
- In 2004, Linda Hull, a New Mexico parent, realized that local music teacher Ted Vives had been convicted and registered as a child sex offender. She lobbied the school district to mandate that registered sex offenders be escorted on the school’s campus, and alerted other parents and organizations to Vives’ past, which she felt was particularly important because Vives had begun giving private, unaccompanied music lessons to students after school. In 2008, Vives sued Hull, claiming intentional interference with contractual relations, infliction of emotional distress, false light invasion of privacy and malicious abuse of process. At trial, Vives admitted he hadn’t disclosed to parents that he was a convicted sex offender when he moved to Los Alamos and began offering private music lessons in his home to teenagers. He also noted that being alone with children was a “sensitive trigger” of his “urges” to offend. Vives v. Hull (N.M. 1st Judicial Ct. Oct. 8, 2009).
- · In 2003, Chaplain Austin Miles accused Michael Newdow, the man who sued to remove the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, of perjury. Newdow was not satisfied to sue only Miles, so he sued World News Daily (WND), which had actually published Newdow’s own side of the story, and Assist News Service, which had reported on Miles’ statements. Newdow ended up apologizing to WND; he dismissed Assist News Service after it filed a motion to dismiss under the California anti-SLAPP law. Newdow v. Miles, 2006 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 9482 (Cal. App. Oct. 24, 2006).