Four days after filing a federal court complaint alleging defamation and related claims, Lewis & Lin obtained a consent order for a preliminary injunction requiring the defendant to remove a defamatory blog post about our client, a respected clinical psychiatrist with a private medical practice in Manhattan.
As alleged in the complaint, the defendant, a self-described psychotherapist, “wellness expert” and spiritual guru with a worldwide following, perpetrated an online attack campaign against our client by publishing and communicating false, defamatory and completely fabricated statements on his blog.
Lewis & Lin filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, asserting claims for false advertising under the Lanham Act; trade libel and commercial disparagement; common law unfair competition; intentional infliction of emotional distress; tortious interference with contractual relations; breach of contract; unjust enrichment and fraud.
We concurrently sought an Order to Show Cause for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order. Upon being served with the initiating papers, counsel for the defendant contacted Lewis & Lin, agreeing to remove the blog post. Accordingly, the court issued a consent order for preliminary injunction enjoining defendants and their agents from publishing the blog post, or continuing to make certain defamatory statements about our client pending the resolution of the litigation.
In a case of first impression in the Eastern District of New York, Lewis & Lin obtained a judgment against an anonymous, unidentified blogger in a defamation case brought by our client, a real estate investment company and its founder and CEO.
Our complaint asserted claims for trademark infringement, unfair competition, defamation, trade libel and tortious interference based on the unknown defendant’s anonymous emails and blog posts.
Upon filing the complaint, Lewis & Lin sought and was granted an order for expedited discovery to identify the John Doe defendant. After our extensive efforts to identify the defendant, we sought permission from the court to serve defendant via email. The motion was granted, and the defendant, after being served, failed to answer the complaint. Accordingly, we sought a default motion for damages and injuctive relief against the unknown blogger.
As the Eastern District of New York had never issued a judgment against an unidentified party, the Court directed our firm to provide authority supporting its power to do so. Citing cases from other judicial districts, we argued that the fact that defendant had not been identified was not fatal to a request for default judgment as long as it was properly served with process. In a 56-page report and recommendation, Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak agreed with our reasoning:
Where an unidentified defendant has been properly served with a complaint and has nevertheless failed to answer or otherwise respond, the fact that the defendant cannot be physically identified does not impede a court’s ability to enter judgment against it. To hold otherwise in a situation such as the one presented in the instant case would permit individuals who have violated federal law to continue to do so without redress for the harmed parties solely due to the fact that the wrongful party has successfully concealed himself or herself from identification.
Accordingly, Judge Pollak recommended judgment against the defendant for $225,000 in damages, along with attorneys fees and costs. Importantly, Judge Pollak also recommended that the offending blog be taken down and the email address be disabled. Chief Judge Dora Lizette Irizarry adopted the R&R in its entirety and issued an order to its effect. Upon receiving the court order, Google has carried out its terms and disabled both the blog and the email address. The case is 1:14-cv-05968-DLI-CLP in the Eastern District of New York. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding Lewis & Lin’s defamation law practice.