Med Express Sues Marginally Dissatisfied Customer For Posting Accurate Feedback On eBay

from the talk-about-inconvenience dept

Here's yet another example of companies using lawsuits to censor speech -- a situation that would be stopped if there was a serious federal anti-SLAPP law in place. Paul Levy shares the incredible story of a company called "Med Express," an Ohio company, who appears to sell various medical equipment exclusively via eBay (there are other "Med Express" companies out there from what I can tell). One buyer, in South Carolina, purchased something, but was disappointed by the fact that the product arrived postage due. The woman noted it wasn't the fact that she had to pay, just the inconvenience of having to pay to get the delivery when it wasn't expected. In response, she left negative feedback on Med Express' eBay page.

While Med Express did express regret (while noting that some other customers had seen the same problem) and offered to reimburse the postage due, it also asked her to remove the negative review. However, as she noted, it wasn't the money issue, but the inconvenience, so she decided to leave her feedback up. At this point, Med Express and its lawyer, James Amodio, apparently decided that if she didn't like "inconvenience" it would subject her to more inconvenience and sued her for defamation in state court in Ohio and sought a temporary restraining order against eBay to block the review. While that failed, apparently the judge is allowing a hearing to happen for a preliminary injunction even though (as Levy points out) the same reason the TRO was rejected should apply to any preliminary injunction.

Amazingly, the complaint directly lays out the pretty clear fact that it's suing her for not removing a truthful review. They don't even attempt to argue that she said anything false or defamatory. Just that they feel she shouldn't have complained since they offered to reimburse.

This is where Levy, a former colleague of a relative of the customer in this case, Amy Nicholls, reached out to Amodio to point out that the lawsuit was a complete joke. Amodio's response is somewhat stunning, in that, according to Levy, he more or less admitted that he was filing a nuisance lawsuit:
I contacted James Amodio, Med Express’s lawyer, to explain to him the many ways in which his lawsuit is untenable.  He readily admitted that, as the complaint admits, everything that the customer had posted in her feedback was true; he did not deny that a statement has to be false to be actionable as defamation; but he just plain didn’t care.  To the contrary, he told me that I could come up to Medina, Ohio, and argue whatever I might like, but that the case was going to continue unless the feedback was taken down or changed to positive.  And he explained why his client was insisting on this change — he said that it sells exclusively over eBay, where a sufficient level of negative feedback can increase the cost of such sales as well as possibly driving away customers
Yet another case of felony interference with a business model, apparently, except in this case the company and the lawyer seem to be fine with abusing defamation law to stop a truthful review from appearing online because it might hurt them. Of course, suing a customer seems like the sort of thing likely to lead to significantly more negative feedback and fewer people willing to buy from them. Yes, a negative review can suck, but suing over it, while admitting that you don't really care about all the reasons that the lawsuit is censorious crap, is taking things to another level entirely.

As Levy notes, if a "public spirited lawyer in that part of Ohio" wants to take up a case to stand up for free speech and against censorious attacks, here's an opening.



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  1. icon
    Franklin G Ryzzo (profile), 16 Apr 2013 @ 4:55pm

    Re:

    Actually, she paid $12.00 shipping and handling and then was required to pay an additional $1.44 to receive delivery. http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/04/new-anti-speech-low-buyer-sued-over-negative-ebay-feedbac k/

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