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Woman Wins Libel Suit By Suing Wrong Website 323

Posted by samzenpus
from the close-enough dept.
An anonymous reader writes "It appears that Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader Sarah Jones and her lawyer were so upset by a comment on the site TheDirty.com that they missed the 'y' at the end of the name. Instead, they sued the owner of TheDirt.com, whose owner didn't respond to the lawsuit. The end result was a judge awarding $11 million, in part because of the failure to respond. Now, both the owners of TheDirty.com and TheDirt.com are complaining that they're being wrongfully written about in the press — one for not having had any content about Sarah Jones but being told it needs to pay $11 million, and the other for having the content and having the press say it lost a lawsuit, even though no lawsuit was ever actually filed against it."
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Woman Wins Libel Suit By Suing Wrong Website

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  • by Sonny Yatsen (603655) * on Thursday September 02, 2010 @08:38AM (#33448922) Journal

    Maybe TheDirt.com should sue Sarah Jones for libel for making false and damaging defamatory statements about them to the courts and to the press.

  • "Justice" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 02, 2010 @08:49AM (#33449118)

    This has to be the best evidence that I have seen that our "Justice" system is broken. Did the judge not even bother looking at the evidence? And what were they thinking proceeding with a verdict without the defendant having a voice in the proceedings? It sounds like both the court and the suing attorneys completely ignored their due diligence duties and I hope they hang (financially & professionally) for it.

  • Blonde lawyer? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by spamking (967666) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @08:50AM (#33449132)
    Was her lawyer blonde too?
  • by MaskedSlacker (911878) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @08:52AM (#33449188)

    Which we would ALL appreciate.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 02, 2010 @08:54AM (#33449236)

    Well, thedirt.com may never have received the complaint if it was delivered to the address for thedirty.com

    They definitely have a lot of room to appeal this.

  • Judge's career (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pmontra (738736) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:01AM (#33449372) Homepage
    Is this going to harm or benefit the career of the judge? And suing the wrong company shouldn't invalidate the judgment?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:01AM (#33449380)

    Proof again that America no longer has a Justice system.
    What it does have instead, is merely a "Legal" system.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:03AM (#33449418)

    Well, thedirt.com may never have received the complaint if it was delivered to the address for thedirty.com

    Except it wasn't.

  • Re:"Justice" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mr_mischief (456295) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:05AM (#33449468) Journal

    The defendant had a voice. They were summoned to court and refused to show up. They could have just sent a motion to dismiss with prejudice since they weren't the right defendant. They could have even just called her lawyer and said, "Look, we never wrote anything about your client, so we could not have slandered or libeled her. You have the wrong site." Then the lawyer could have done his diligence and filed against the proper party.

  • by tophermeyer (1573841) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:05AM (#33449470)

    True, it will probably be really easy to appeal.

    But they shouldn't have to. This is an area of out Justice system that sucks. Even though it's an easy win, they still have to pay a lawyer to go into court. Hopefully they will get their expenses reimbursed by the crack legal team that misspelled the word "Dirty".

  • by iamhassi (659463) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:05AM (#33449472) Journal
    then she can sue her lawyer for not realizing he was suing the wrong company
  • Re:"Justice" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by coryking (104614) * on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:14AM (#33449636) Homepage Journal

    If you get a court summons, you should not ignore it. Even if they sent it to the wrong guy (you), you could at least call the plaintiff and say "yeah, I got this summons, but I think you got the wrong website).

    If you just ignore the thing and hope it goes away, guess what... By not showing up in court the judge doesn't have to examine the evidence. They just assume since you didn't respond and didn't show up, you don't mind entering into a default judgement.

    It isn't a fucked up justice system... It is an idiot who ignored a court summons. Can he wiggle out of it? Yes. But now it will cost him a whole lot more time, money, and hassle than if he had just picked up the phone and said "WTF is this summons about?"

  • by coryking (104614) * on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:23AM (#33449840) Homepage Journal

    Except you don't get court summons delivered by email, facebook, or Twitter. You get them via certified letter, in person, or some other means that is easy to audit.

    Either the summons went to the wrong mail address (Whois for thedirty.com) or it went to the right address and right defendant. It sounds like it went to the wrong name & address.

    Once this gets overturned and they presumably go after the correct party, I susped the plaintiff will have a hard time explaining why she didn't notice the mistake. The lawyer would have at least gone to the website with her in person. If she cared that much about some nasty comment in a website, you think she would notice that the lawyer was on the wrong site, wouldn't you?

    My bet is this fuck up will cost her the real case. If you are pissed about some website, you don't exactly forget what the website looked like!

  • Re:"Justice" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:34AM (#33450046)

    Maybe it was an error in judgment, but is it an $11 million error? That's sick.

    What's even sicker is the legal wonks sitting around scratching their goatees and blathering "Well, teh laws am teh laws." This is a horrific result.

    Then the lawyer could have done his diligence and filed against the proper party.

    How about the lawyer do his due diligence BEFORE all this happens? You people... seriously... there needs to be more crotches punched in this world. You're all sleepwalking zombies.

  • Re:"Justice" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by oji-sama (1151023) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:38AM (#33450142)

    It's still broken, if you can sue a wrong party and win. You shouldn't need to worry about defending yourself (legally) from idiots.

  • flaw (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shentino (1139071) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:39AM (#33450156)

    The whole thing about automatically losing any lawsuit you don't answer leaves open a big fat hole for you to get DDoS'ed by the legal system. Get enough summonses thrown at you and a few are bound to slip through the cracks.

  • Re:"Justice" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mr_mischief (456295) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @09:42AM (#33450242) Journal

    You're right. He should have filed against the proper party in the first place. He was acting on the faulty recollection, likely enough, of his client. He still should have double-checked who the proper party was.

    The company that got served would have had the plaintiff's lawyer's contact information and contact information for the court. They could have sent affidavits to both for a few dollars for the notary (if they don't employ anyone who is a notary) and a few dollars for certified postage that they had never written anything about the plaintiff and that they were not the proper party to sue. If the judge still ordered them to appear, they could have spent a few hours on local representation for someone to show up and argue for dismissal against the wrong defendant and naming of the proper defendant, then easily been reimbursed for that attorney's fees.

    You do realize that this happens often enough -- that the wrong person or company gets served -- that there are established court procedures for dealing with it?

  • by Dan541 (1032000) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @10:06AM (#33450798) Homepage

    Do forget to pursue contempt of court.I'm pretty sure you're not allowed to con the courts into awarding you judgements like that.

  • Re:11 million? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wisnoskij (1206448) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @10:16AM (#33450964) Homepage

    "If there is nobody to point out that the party is innocent, why should the judge just assume that?"

    because a judge should be able to think for him/herself and be able to make logical conclusions based on evidence.

    and where is the innocent before proven guilty, it sounds like the court system is designed around you are guilty unless you prove to the judge that you are innocent.

    But you are right this is based off of hindsight, but I still think that I am right and that even without hindsight a competent legal system would of handled this case correctly.

  • by Dishevel (1105119) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @10:19AM (#33451014)
    I am hereby accusing you of being Obamas gay Muslim lover who has small rodents shoved up your ass and likes it all.

    If you do not immediately respond to this accusation you are implying I am correct.

    Damm. I hear some stupid shit on this site.

    Some of it mine.

  • Re:"Justice" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dishevel (1105119) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @10:22AM (#33451088)

    You do realize that this happens often enough -- that the wrong person or company gets served -- that there are established court procedures for dealing with it?

    All of them requiring time, money and effort on the part of those who did no wrong. Ignoring something like this IS the right thing to do. The problem is the fucked up laws do not see it that way.

  • by Mouldy (1322581) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @10:27AM (#33451208)
    Why should TheDirt waste their money, resources and time to defend something that has absolutely nothing to do with them. Yeah, it probably would have just been a 5 minute "You've got the wrong website" statement, but that's still money that they shouldn't have to spend. IANAL, but I doubt TheDirt could claim all of their costs back from this daft cheerleader - especially considering the ridiculous method that's used to calculate costs. It's kind of depressing that "innocent until proven guilty" goes out the window when they can shoot for "proven guilty in absence".

    They should counter-sue/appeal/whatever-it-is the cheerleader into oblivion for slandering their website.
  • Re:this just in (Score:3, Insightful)

    by countSudoku() (1047544) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @10:31AM (#33451286) Homepage

    Sarah Jones the ex Bengals Cheerleader who rapes goats with umbrellas and once blew The Prophet Mohammad until he screamed "Thank you, Jesus! Will you make me a ham sandwich?" And every word of it is true and verifiable by thedirtys.com

  • by Digital Vomit (891734) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @11:28AM (#33452470) Homepage Journal
    I prefer the term "Litigation Industry".
  • by AK Marc (707885) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @01:17PM (#33454542)
    They were so incompetent as to file the suit against the wrong company. What makes you think they properly served the company that had the judgment made against it?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 02, 2010 @01:34PM (#33454828)

    If they're signing and sending the documents, they're responsible for the accuracy of the documents. It sucks for them that they're not up on technology, but they should either not take the case or risk the consequences if a mistake is made.

    The internet sites they sue probably understand libel law about as well as these lawyers understand technology and yet they're being held to account in that regard. Those tech-savvy individuals would probably have to hire some expensive law-savvy consultant (lawyer) to aid them through the process, so why should the lawyers not have to hire some expensive tech-savvy consultant to assist them?

    Ignorance of the law is no excuse. That's a well-known tenet. Ignorance of technology is no more valid an excuse.

  • Re:"Justice" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jythie (914043) on Thursday September 02, 2010 @03:13PM (#33456536)
    This highlights one of the major problems with the legal system.. while in theory everyone is supposed to have access, the reality is that most people do not know the rules, do not know where to look for the rules, and have no idea what options (or consequences) are available to them unless they hire someone to help defend them.. at which point they have already been punished.

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