There are lots of places we can go to read about the misuse and abuse of the civil justice system, usually by attorneys representing plaintiffs in personal injury, pharma, consumer or other litigation (Overlawyered.com and its sister site PointofLaw.com come to mind right away). But businesses aren't immune from stirring up wacky litigation, either. Without comment on whether this one qualifies, CalBizLit presents for your consideration Parkmerced Investors Properties LLC and Stellar Larkspur Partners LLC v. Does 1-18, Inclusive, filed September 23 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.
And who are these Does 1-18? Why they are unknown individuals who "unlawfully posted false, misleading and defamatory comments regarding" the Park Merced and Larkspur Shores apartments in San Francisco and Larkspur, respectively, on www.apartmentratings.com, part of the fast-growing Web 2.0 industry of unfiltered consumer review sites (see: www.citysearch.com, www.yelp.com, or, for that matter, www.amazon.com). Whomever these Doe people were, they sure weren't very nice to Park Merced or Larkspur Shores, posting such detailed advice as "STAY FAR AWAY AND NEVER LOOK BACK," "WORST PLACE I'VE EVER LIVED,"a real dump," and "RUN RUN RUN FAR FAR AWAY."
The two plaintiffs allege that "on information and belief" the posting reviewers included persons who were not tenants, but were employees, agents, etc. of competing apartment house communities. "On information and belief." That's often lawyer language for "I got no idea whether it's true or not, but let's do some discovery and see what happens."
Now, it's really hard to get a judgment against Does 1-18. Apparently the idea here is to get the complaint on file, then subpoena apartmentratings.com and find out who is saying these terrible things. The ACLU and Public Citizen Litigation Group , representing one of the anonymous posters, have moved for a protective order and to strike the complaint under California's anti-SLAPP statute, CCP section 425.16. Hearing is set for January 15, and I'm going to keep an eye on this one.
You know, everybody is entitled to file a suit about anything, I suppose, but some people, and some companies, really need to get over themselves.
Hat tip to Legal Pad.