Feb 14, 2014

Firm Prevails Again in Internet Defamation Case

Mal Braverman, DDS v. Yelp Inc., (N.Y. Sup. Ct., Index No. 158299/2013) (Feb. 24, 2014).

Ford Marrin continued its successful defense of websites and blogs in Internet defamation actions. The New York County Supreme Court (Hon. E. Rakower, J.S.C.) recently dismissed the defamation and breach of contract claims asserted by a New York dentist against Yelp Inc. based on allegedly defamatory reviews written by users of the Yelp website. Following Court of Appeals’ precedent established by Ford Marrin in Shiamili v. The Real Estate Group of New York, Inc., 17 N.Y.3d 281 (2011), as well as a prior related action captioned Braverman v. Yelp Inc., (N.Y Sup. Ct., Index No. 155629/12) (June 28, 2013), the Court recognized that under the federal Communications Decency Act (“CDA”) Yelp is immune from liability for defamatory postings by third-parties. CDA Section 230 provides immunity to websites and blogs where the action is not based on content that was created or developed by the website. Here, the Court held that doctrines re judicata and collateral estoppel applied to the dentists’ claims and warranted dismissal.

With regard to the breach of contract claims, the Court enforced the forum selection clause in the user agreement, which provided that any such claims must be brought in San Francisco California, and dismissed those claims as well. This decision signifies another victory by Ford Marrin for website and blog operators under CDA Section 230.

Partner Andrew Mandelbaum successfully represented defendant Yelp Inc. in this matter.