Odin, Feldman & Pittleman Wins Dismissal of Defamation Claim Against Consumer Advocacy Site

PLEASE NOTE: CASE RESULTS DEPEND UPON A VARIETY OF FACTORS UNIQUE TO EACH CASE. THE CASE RESULTS DESCRIBED HERE DO NOT GUARANTEE OR PREDICT A SIMILAR RESULT IN ANY FUTURE CASE.

Jan 26, 2010, 09:00 ET from Odin, Feldman & Pittleman

FAIRFAX, Va., Jan. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a defamation claim against Odin Feldman & Pittleman (OFP) client ConsumerAffairs.com, in Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v. ConsumerAffairs.com, Inc.  "The Fourth Circuit's decision confirms the breadth of immunity afforded to website operators for content posted on their sites by third-parties and makes clear that there was no plausible indication that ConsumerAffairs.com had any role in creating the allegedly defamatory content," said OFP principal and lead trial and appellate counsel Jonathan D. Frieden.

ConsumerAffairs.com is a leading website devoted to consumer information and provides a forum for consumers to record their experiences with the providers of various products and services. Nemet Chevrolet and a related car dealership sued ConsumerAffairs.com, alleging that several of the posts to the website were defamatory and caused the plaintiffs to lose business.

The website moved to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act barred claims, like those set forth by the plaintiffs, which attempt to hold a website operator liable for content created by a third-party user of the website.  The plaintiffs sought to avoid the effect of this statutory immunity by accusing ConsumerAffairs.com of soliciting, or assisting in the creation, of the complaints which were the subject of the suit.  The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed the action and Nemet sought review of the dismissal with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal, holding that plaintiffs' conclusory allegations failed to meet the pleading requirements articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal and Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly.   Judge G. Steven Agee, for himself and Judge Robert B. King, held that the plaintiff's lawsuit failed to state a claim that ConsumerAffairs.com was responsible, in whole or in part, for the creation of the subject website posts which was "plausible on its face" and that the allegations supporting the "fabricated" posts were mere speculation.

On balance, this decision from the Fourth Circuit shows that the immunity afforded by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is as alive and well as it was a dozen years before when the Fourth Circuit became the first federal appellate court to consider the scope of that immunity.

ConsumerAffairs.com was represented in this matter by OFP principal Jonathan D. Feldman and associate Stephen A. Cobb.

Jonathan D. Frieden is a principal in Odin, Feldman & Pittleman, P.C.'s Litigation practice group where he tries complex commercial disputes and counsels e-commerce companies in a variety of industries. Mr. Frieden has been named among Virginia Business Magazine's "Legal Elite" three times and has twice been listed as one of Virginia's "Rising Stars" by Richmond Magazine.

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About Odin, Feldman & Pittleman

Odin, Feldman & Pittleman is a Northern Virginia based law firm with attorneys practicing in litigation, real estate, bankruptcy & creditors' rights; corporate, securities, tax and finance; family law and domestic relations; labor and employment; technology and intellectual property; trusts, estates and tax planning; arbitration and mediation; banking and finance; and construction law.



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