Update — Response to Summary Judgment filed in Comins v. Van Voorhis

[Update — On Friday, the court held a hearing on Van Voorhis’ Motion for Summary Judgment and Comins’ Motion to Dismiss the Counterclaim.   The court is taking the Motion for Summary Judgment under advisement.   The court denied Comins’ Motion to Dismiss  Van Voorhis’ Counterclaim.]

In June 2008, Matthew Van Voorhis reported about a dog shooting — a man shot two Siberian Huskies while onlookers begged the shooter to stop. Van Voorhis reported on the story a total of two times for Public Intellectual, a blog he publishes.  Both times he covered the story, Mr. Van Voorhis included a YouTube video of the shooting.  Van Voorhis  was not the first cover the shooting; he reported on the incident after the video of the shooting had gone viral and after Fox, NBC and dozens of other news sources covered the story.

Nearly a year later, the dog shooter, Christopher Comins — who contends he had no choice but to shoot the dogs because they could have attacked cattle — sued Mr. Van Voorhis accusing him of defamation for blogging about the shooting and for voicing a negative opinion about it.

The case is Comins v. Van Voorhis.  Siouxsie previously blogged about this case here and here.

This is the video of the shooting.

The case is at the summary judgment stage now, and it looks like Mr. Van Voorhis has a great chance at getting the defamation case thrown out.   Among the major problems with the lawsuit is that it appears that Mr. Comins failed to comply with  Florida  law for filing defamation  actions.

In Florida, where this case was filed, plaintiffs are required to send pre-suit notice to defendants in anticipation of a defamation action so as 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.   Mr. Comins didn’t do this.  Mr. Comins argues that the requirement only applies to members of the media and that bloggers aren’t part of the media.  The case cited by Comins to support this assertion is from 1984.  It is unclear from the brief how this case from twenty-five-years ago has any application to new media, like blogging.  Comins emphasizes that the 1984 case is instructive because it held that CB operators aren’t members of the media.  Again, it is entirely unclear how CB operators are at all related to bloggers.  Comins needs stop watching reruns of BJ and the Bear and cite some case law from this decade.  (Comins does cite to a case from 2000, but that only involved a person posting a comment to a message board, not publishing a blog).

It seems obvious and self-evident to this blogger that blogs would be considered part of the media, but one never knows how a judge will rule on any case.

Comins’ Response to Summary Judgment can be found at this link.  If you want to learn how to write a persuasive Motion for Summary Judgment follow this link to the Van Voorhis’ Motion for Summary Judgment.


~ by siouxsielaw on June 9, 2011.

2 Responses to “Update — Response to Summary Judgment filed in Comins v. Van Voorhis”

  1. I hope the judge gets this one right. #teamvanvoorhis

  2. […] 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. […]

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