Court rules in favor of blogger — Comins v. VanVoorhis
Betting on attorney Marc Randazza makes anyone look smart.
As predicted on this blog, a Florida court shot down a dog shooter’s SLAPP suit against a blogger. The dog shooter, Chrisotpher Comins, was caught on camera shooting two pet huskies at close range, and then sued a blogger, Matthew Van Voorhis, who criticized the shooting.
In yesterday’s first-of-its-kind ruling, a Florida court held that because Comins failed to comply with Florida law governing libel and slander actions, the lawsuit is barred. The relevant Florida statute states:
Before any civil action is brought for publication or broadcast, in a newspaper, periodical, or other medium, of a libel or slander, the plaintiff shall, at least 5 days before instituting such action, serve notice in writing on the defendant, specifying the article or broadcast and the statements therein which he or she alleges to be false and defamatory.
Pre-suit notice is required to give the defendant a chance to correct or retract statements and to provide an opportunity to settle the case without going through expensive litigation. But Comins didn’t bother do this.*
Comins theorized that the Florida law should only apply to newspapers editors or newscasters and not bloggers. The Court rejected this interpretation outright, and explained that the Florida law is much more broad than Comins’ characterizations. This ruling is the first one in Florida to hold that blogs and bloggers are covered as “other media” under the pre-suit notice provision. The Court’s opinion is here.
Congrats to Mr. Randazza and his client Matthew Van Voorhis. This case is a great victory for bloggers, especially those in Florida. (Van Voorhis, by the way, filed an abuse of process counter claim against Comins. That claim is ongoing.)
Some important lessons can be taken from this case — don’t go around shooting dogs; if you do, don’t sue those who criticize the shooting; and don’t go up against Randazza.
After a great victory like this, the only thing left to do is to get your groove on to George Clinton’s Atomic Dog.
*That did not stop Comins attorney from claiming the notice had actually been filed at the hearing on Mr. VanVoohis’ motion to dismiss. There was no factual basis for this claim. This representation by counsel seems to be the only reason that the court did not initially dismiss Comins’ SLAPP suit.
Photo Courtesy of Re-ality.