Free Speech

by Tim Cushing

Filed Under:
forum, libel, reviews

tactical rifles

Gun Manufacturer Files Highly Speculative Lawsuit Against Forum Owners For Allegedly Libelous Statements

from the I've-got-plenty-of-hearsay-and-conjecture;-those-are-FORMS-of-evidence dept

COMES NOW... another lawsuit from an aggrieved business targeting negative reviews. There are some cases where this is the correct response, but those cases are far, far fewer than the number of lawsuits actually filed.

This lawsuit, filed by high-end rifle manufacturer Tactical Rifles, Inc. (TRI) apparently targets a negative review given to it by one of the forum members of Snipers Hide, a site dedicated to the coverage (and discussion) of long-range guns.

This is the post indirectly referenced by Orlando Law Group's meandering filing. The poster, Jeff Stevens, apparently ordered a rifle from Tactical Rifles which arrived so screwed up that he had to spend $1,400 to get it back to "working order."

I will let the video tell the rest of the story; it is not pretty. By the time it was done I had about $1,400.00 with parts and labor to make it right. After the work was done I sent the company rep a nasty gram with the link to the video you have here and figured he owed me about $ 900.00 for the machine work that Mark performed. I did not here [sic] a response so I contacted him by phone to get his response and he hung up on me. Ok my friend, that's not a problem, just thought I would get the word out about these guys.
Here's the video, which appears to have been made by Jeff Stevens. For some reason, the lawsuit claims Marc Soulie, who repaired the rifle (and runs Spartan Precision Rifles) made it, but the video description is written in a first-person perspective. ("I had them build me a platform in the below link on a Remington 700 action. I received the rifle and noticed little chips on the stock around the barrel and a few blemishes in certain areas...")

(As a commenter points out below, this video was most likely created by Marc Soulie of Spartan Precision Rifles as he prepared to fix the issues with Jeff Stevens' rifle purchased from TRI.)

This is the "nastygram" fired off by Stevens after shelling out $1,400 to fix a gun that should have been usable out of the box. (Included as Exhibit A in Tactical Rifles' filing.)

This is Jeff Stevens I had you build me a rifle 4 years ago, you know the one that came with the bent scope base and the stock with all the chips. And when I confronted you on it you told me you build shooters not pretty rifles, yea you know me remember. Well funny as it may be that shitty little short trigger you installed on the rifle the one you could not even get a 90 degree trigger finger on and clear the badger bolt knob had to be replaced, I could not deal with it. So I contacted a local builder a real precision rifle builder to install a timmney trigger and guess what we found while we were inside, the link is below.

From what I gather you owe me about $966.56 in a precision rifle you were supposed to supply me in my original purchase. You have 2 days to contact me about the matter and get it resolved and if we can't resolve it I am going to go public with the youtube link and then I am going to post on all the major shooting forums. I am going to start with Snipershide. Frank Galli personally watched the video and he could not believe you call that a precision rifle product. Well Mr Rooney I told you what comes around goes around you know the karma thing, it's here. Two Days.
This "nastygram," coupled with the attached forwarded email from Marc Soulie (stating that he was attaching a final estimate and the above video) are the basis for this bizarre lawsuit, which lists a variety of accusations that can't be easily proven, along with making the claim that Soulie's email somehow suggests he knowingly posted false information about Tactical Rifles. It also uses slander and libel interchangeably and throws in "assault" for good measure.
MARC SOULIE has posted false information on Snipers Hide, Inc.'s website. He admitted that he has done so in the email attached as Exhibit A.

SNIPERS HIDE, LLC. is a Colorado Corporation which runs a web forum where people can comment about rifles.


TACTICAL RIFLES' Snipers Hide account was deleted to prevent it from responding to the outrageous lies made on the forum. Attempts to set up a new acct have been denied by FRANK GALLI.

FRANK GALLI also allows companies who provide him free merchandise to maintain multiple screen names for the purpose of slandering any competitor companies like TACTICAL RIFLES, INC. These screen names pretend to be dissatisfied customers of TACTICAL RIFLES, INC. Positive comments are deleted by GALLI and the posters are threatened with expulsion and banning for life if they post anything further about TACTICAL RIFLES, INC. which basically bans free unbiased speech on his forum.
Where to start…

First off, Soulie's email says nothing of the sort. Here's his email in full (included in Exhibit A).
Hi Jeff,

Here is the final estimate and link to video documentation. Right now this link is private. Let me know if you want it to be made public.
At no point does anyone (Soulie or Stevens) even suggest the information being posted is false. This appears to be complete speculation (or wishful thinking) from TRI. From there it wanders off into more allegations that will be very difficult to substantiate. Perhaps TRI is hoping it will be equally hard for the three defendants to prove otherwise. If so, TRI's legal rep seems to have forgotten that the plaintiff bears most of the burden of proof. Unless TRI is sitting on a pile of screenshots that clearly implicate Galli and Snipers Hide, there's nothing in its single exhibit that even comes close to proving that allegation, never mind the entirety of its claims.

Moving on:
Defendant created and published a false video and then made comments on website Snipers Hide.

The postings contain false accusations that are libelous on their face.
Once again, TRI makes no attempt to back up its "fake video" assertions, apparently relying on the court to somehow read into Soulie's words something that's clearly not there. Then TRI goes further, claiming the "false accusations" are so clearly libelous that it doesn't even need to prove they're libelous. Somehow, TRI's legal rep feels the statements are so obviously libelous that she doesn't even need to cite any of them in her filing or even specify which "clearly libelous" posts should be removed.

As for the posts themselves, those that I've come across are presented in a very straightforward manner. They are, however, written in a markedly restrained way that seems to indicate trashing TRI had gotten out of hand at Snipers Hide in the past. If there's something more libelous out there, then presumably TRI has already collected it as evidence. But there's nothing in the filing that indicates it's building this case on anything more than a single (supposedly) damning email and a whole lot of conjecture.

TRI is also seeking an injunction against the defendants to prevent further derogatory posts and demands the removal of current, allegedly libelous posts related to TRI. Again, the filing fails to indicate which posts offend and should be removed, leaving TRI's perception of libel (or slander, as the lawsuit uses interchangeably) to the reader's imagination. The filing also makes tortious interference claims against both Mark Soulie (as a rival gunmaker) and co-defendant Frank Galli (as a "friend" of a rival gunmaker), claiming that they both contributed libelous statements that damaged TRI's business prospects.

What we're left with is something that gives every appearance of legal threats being used to shut down critics, which isn't how the system is supposed to work. The filing goes long on motive and speculation, but provides very little in the way of actual, provable facts -- the very definition of a frivolous lawsuit, one which appears to have been filed solely in hopes of blustering TRI's critics into silence.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Feb 2014 @ 1:16pm

    Re: Re: Section 230 anyone?

    Section 230 doesn't apply to copyright infringement cases.

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