Online Sales, Online Feedback, Defamation and Sanctions

Eugene Volokh reports on an interesting case, Med Express Inc. v. Nicholls, Case No. 13-CIV-0351 (Ohio Comm. Pl.).  The action was filed by an online vendor who received negative feedback on Ebay from a purchaser. The plaintiff, Med Express Inc., sued for defamation and demanded both injunctive relief and monetary damages.  Although claim of defamation (unlike some related torts) requires that the allegations made against the plaintiff be false, the complaint did not include falsity in its recitation of the facts. Med Express lost their application for a temporary restraining order.  The defendant has counterclaimed for sanctions under Ohio statute and common law principles related to frivolous litigation practices, and is likely to prevail.

Relevant documents may be viewed here.  This case provides a cautionary tale to online vendors.  Although online feedback forms are of critical importance in their ability to maintain their business, defamation claims are not an appropriate avenue of relief where the allegations underlying those claims are, in fact, true, and plaintiffs making such claims open themselves up to potential court sanctions and other liability.