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I can feel my blood pressure exploding and my pulse quickening when I see this stuff. It makes me soooooo mad. The legislatures and courts need to do something to protect everyday citizens from these frivolous lawsuits. It's really ridiculous!

Chicagoist: A woman is being sued after criticizing a concrete company on Angie's List. Helen Maslona was surprised to learn a local concrete company refused to do work at her house, five miles from their headquarters, because they claimed to cover her area in their company profile. So Helen posted this criticism on the site (which is allowed on Angie's List) and gave the company an "F." This, apparently, warrants a lawsuit asking for $10,000 in damages. Said Helen: "I'm just floored. I can't believe it. First of all, $10,000 -- for what?" And said Michael Fitzgerald, owner of the company, "I'm not trying to be a jerk. It's just hard to have somebody slander you."

Either the owner is in fact a jerk... or he missed an opportunity to tell the reporter that Ms. Maslona's review was factually wrong. If the facts of the case are as claimed above, the owner of the concrete company should have his feet held to the fire and made to pay not only Ms. Maslona's legal fees, but also some pain and suffering (and slander) damages. PEOPLE, WE HAVE A FIRST AMENDMENT!

It is not just that commercial interests can use their comparative economic power to suppress people's speech... and the courts and legislature should even out the incentives to make businesses think twice about intimidating people through the courts.

From the NYTimes article, discussing another similar suit:

[Legal experts] consider the lawsuit an example of the latest incarnation of a decades-old legal maneuver known as a strategic lawsuit against public participation, or Slapp.

The label has traditionally referred to meritless defamation suits filed by businesses or government officials against citizens who speak out against them. The plaintiffs are not necessarily expecting to succeed -- most do not -- but rather to intimidate critics who are inclined to back down when faced with the prospect of a long, expensive court battle.


The federal bill, in the House Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy, would enable a defendant who believes he is being sued for speaking out or petitioning on a public matter to seek to have the suit dismissed.

"Just as petition and free speech rights are so important that they require specific constitutional protections, they are also important enough to justify uniform national protections against Slapps," said Mark Goldowitz, director of the California Anti-Slapp Project, which helped draft the bill.

Under the proposed federal law, if a case is dismissed for being a Slapp, the plaintiff would have to pay the defendant's legal fees. Mr. Randazza would not disclose specifics on the legal fees he has charged his clients, but he said the cost of defending a single Slapp suit "could easily wipe out the average person's savings before the case is half done."
Emphasis added

And then a gem of a quote from a college student sued for an online comment regarding a towing service:

"There's no reason I should have to shut up because some guy doesn't want his dirty laundry out," Mr. Kurtz said. "It's the power of the Internet, man."