Also A Bad Idea: Gawker Exploring Lawsuit Against Peter Thiel For Tortious Interference & Racketeering

from the not-a-good-move dept

There ought to just be a rule that if you’re even threatening to sue someone for “tortious interference” or “racketeering” that you should recognize that your claims are probably bogus and you should probably take a deep breath and think again. I’ve been quite clear that I have serious problems with Peter Thiel’s aggressive campaign to bankrupt Gawker by funding a variety of (mostly specious) lawsuits, but I don’t think the answer is to hit back with a similarly ridiculous lawsuit. However, Forbes (warning: adblocker blockers in play) is reporting that Gawker’s lawyers are exploring a potential lawsuit against Thiel for tortious interference and racketeering:

?The lawyers are exploring whether this could be a case of tortious interference, racketeering or other potential claims,? said the source.

The thing is, these are the kinds of charges that you throw in to a case when you’re just really annoyed at what someone or some company did to you, and you don’t have any actual laws you can show they broke. I do think there could be an argument for some sort of anti-SLAPP law that allows companies to go after those financing questionable lawsuits for legal fees of such lawsuits, but expanding that to racketeering just seems extreme (and, also, very unlikely to succeed — as Ken White has pointed out repeatedly, judges hate civil racketeering claims, as they recognize that they’re frequently bogus).

So I’m all for looking for reasonable ways to prevent billionaires from overloading small publications with bogus legal fees, but I don’t think making questionable arguments around tortious interference and racketeering are a reasonable approach.

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Companies: gawker

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Comments on “Also A Bad Idea: Gawker Exploring Lawsuit Against Peter Thiel For Tortious Interference & Racketeering”

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David says:

Re: Re:

It may not just be the Hulk Hogan lawsuit. I guess it depends if they can prove he went “plantiff shopping”. He is apparently on record stating that he was trying to take the company down, so if he conspired with multiple people to do this, they might be able to get a jury to agree with them. Hulk may have just been the head-shot (or pile-driver?) that finished them off.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yeah, the entire ‘industry’ of extortion via claims of copyright/patent infringement would like to have a few words with you, I think it was something along the lines of ‘If that were true we’d be out of business’.

Going to court can be very expensive at times, win or lose, and numerous groups bank on exactly that to force settlements even from people that are innocent and/or believe that they had good odds of coming out on top if they were to go to court.

It doesn’t matter if an individual or company wins every single lawsuit filed against them if in so doing they are drained of funds and basically lose by default, so no, merits or not it is entirely possible to ‘beat’ someone simply via attrition.

Anonymous Coward says:

Serious problem here...

The problem is not people giving someone else money to fund their lawsuits. Life is unfair and you cannot make it anything but.

The problem is the systems itself. It only allows the rich to seek justice or to spite justice. The system does not allow the poor to obtain justice or to fight against injustice.

Gawker has just as much of a case against Thiel, as Hogan had against Gawker.

Two wrongs will not make a right but it looks like it makes for entertaining news. Will be terrible, but also karmic justice if Gawker wins!

Looks like everyone is going to lose in this shit show!

sophisticatedjanedoe (profile) says:

Meanith Huon

Meanith Huon… A ghost from the past. He represented a gay pornography studio Flava Works in a couple of bittorent lawsuits, and even won $1,5M (not sure the plaintiff was able to collect though). Search TorrentFreak for Flava — TF is down now, so I can’t provide a link. Flava is a bit of outside of my area of interest because this company didn’t extort file-sharers, but instead went after the initial downloaders via watermarking the films. I’m even reluctant to call them copyright trolls.

In the course of discussion of those lawsuits, Raul unearthed and posted some unflattering links (related to the allegations Above the Law was sued for). In two weeks someone, who I believe was Mr. Huon himself, stopped by and attempted to threaten as:

It would be fairly easy to issue a subpoena for your IP address and name you as a John Doe and sue you for defamation. Every day this posts remains is a republication o the defamatory statement.

and (twice)

Accusing someone of a crime is defamatory. The blog develops the content of the comments. Thus, Section 230 of the CDA does not apply. The John Doe commenters are also liable for defamation. A subpoena will reveal your IP address. Keep it up.

After he realized that we wouldn’t succumb to intimidation, he relented. Nonetheless, he was successful in intimidating some online media, and many articles (for example, in St. Louis Post Dispatch) were removed.

Kind of a shady and unpleasant individual. Won’t be surprised if Mike receives some threats from him.

Chuck says:

Bad Source

So, first, I’m not opening the Forbes link. Sorry guys, I trust Forbes to not serve me malware, but I don’t trust the ad network Forbes outsources their ads to, so no dice.

That said, assuming the original article tracks the quote, there’s a couple problems here. (The following is based on Alabama law, and might not apply in California, idk)

1) Racketeering is a criminal statue whereas Tortious Interference is a civil statue. Gawker’s own lawyers can’t threaten a criminal case (since they’re not the DA) and if they did, they could be breaking the Code of Professional Conduct for using a criminal case to attempt to gain an advantage in a civil matter. Not smart.

2) Thiel may be an asshat, but nothing I’ve seen makes him a racketeer. The standard to prove racketeering is rather high – essentially, you have to be able to ALMOST prove multiple other charges. In essence, it’s RICO before RICO was a thing. Since none of what he has done is outright criminal, they can’t make any of the sub-parts of a racketeering charge stick, and thus can’t make a racketeering case either.

3) Gawker MIGHT have a point on the Tortious Interference claim, but it won’t be easy to prove. Granted, Thiel has done a lot of this for them. The short version is, they have to show he interfered with their business in a way that was illegal and caused actual damage. The first part – interference – is there, as is the damage, i.e. the verdict. However, they’re missing the illegal part. What he did was horrible for the sake of freedom of the press, sure. But they can’t really claim his funding of this case violated the First Amendment. In a strange way, you can actually thank Citizen’s United for that.

And it’s mainly not illegal because, whether he funded it or not, Hogan still won the case. We can argue whether or not he should’ve won it (he shouldn’t) but he did, fair and square.

If Gawker gets the verdict in the Hogan case overturned, THEN they MIGHT have a case against Thiel for Tortious Interference. Unless or until then, they’re out of luck.

Not that they won’t try, of course.

In any case, whoever Forbes’ source is, they’re a bad source. Forbes shouldn’t be quoting someone who doesn’t know the difference between a civil statue and a criminal statue as a reliable source regarding a potential legal action.

Whatever says:

Gawkers lawyers are only looking into this as and end result of bankruptcy. Basically, they sell the company, collect 100 million, post the 50 million as required by the judge in the Hogan case, and then start billing hours as fast as they can, as expensive as they can, hire all the outside help and experts and consultants they can, and quickly suck the other 50 million out of the company, leaving Hogan and Theil with an empty shell to suck on.

Lawyers get rich, everyone else gets the finger.

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