eAppraiseIT defamation suit dropped

I previously reported on the First American eAppraiseIT v. Crowley defamation case. (complaint here)

It appears that the plaintiff has dropped the suit. Florida Today reports:

In a court filing dated Feb. 6, eAppraiseIT said it was dismissing its suit against Crowley because it was “well satisfied” with her acknowledgment during a January deposition that she never had any personal knowledge of any incidents that would support the postings about the company. Crowley also said she never intended to suggest the company had violated any laws, according to the filing.

The company’s suit dismissal follows a judge’s refusal in June to grant an injunction barring Crowley from making, or posting comments from others, about the company on her Web site because he said the company failed to prove defamation or financial harm based on the postings. (source)

Florida Today actually got the injunction issue a bit wrong.

The injunction

The noteworthy element of this case (to me) was the fact that the plaintiff asked the court to issue an injunction prohibiting Ms. Crowley from speaking about the plaintiff until the end of discovery. The judge didn’t deny the injunction because eAppraiseIT failed to show defamation or financial harm. Although that might have been the end result, had there been a trial, the issue came down to the abject legal stupidity of asking a court to issue a prior restraint in a defamation case.

eappraiseit-injunction.jpg

No, ass hat, you don’t stop an American from speaking until you can figure out whether “she has defenses”. This isn’t Saudi Arabia.

Click here for the relevant excerpt of the preliminary injunction hearing and here for the full transcript of the hearing.

The Plaintiff asked the judge for an injunction prohibiting the Defendant from making any statements about the Plaintiff until discovery was completed. In other words, before a single statement was determined to be legally defamatory the Plaintiff wanted the Defendant’s First Amendment rights suppressed until he could complete all of his discovery.

In dismissing the request, the judge held:

Injunctive relief is unavailable to redress a past harm or to restrain an actual or threatened defamation. That’s Rodriguez v. Ram Systems, Inc., 466 So.2d 412…Animal Rights Fdn. of Florida, Incl, v. Siegel, 867 So.2d 451…Demby v. English, 667 So.2d 350, and it says, quote “It is a well established rule that equity will not enjoin either an actual or a threatened defamation.(source)

Your injunction asks me to enjoin something that the district courts of appeal tell me that I can’t do.

With that, the Plaintiff seems to have flailed a bit, asking to orally amend the motion. The court was un-moved.

[Y]ou have to tell me by pleading what you’re asking for, and what you asked for is not permissible under the law of this state, and therefore I deny it. You can file whatever you want to in the future, but what you filed here is not permitted under the law of the state, aside from the First Amendment. So I deny it. Thank you.(source)

Accordingly, the reason that the injunction was denied is that the request was so far beyond what is constitutionally permissible that no competent judge would have granted it — not because the plaintiff couldn’t show defamation or financial harm.

eAppraiseIT sought a clearly unsupportable injunction that, if granted, would have been the judicial equivalent of using the American Flag as toilet tissue. Judge Moxley wisely declined to soil himself or the flag in this manner. (Judges are not eligible for the First Amendment Bad Ass award, but Moxley certainly gets an honorable mention).

Why was the suit really dropped?

I’m not buying the official statement:

… eAppraiseIT said it was dismissing its suit against Crowley because it was “well satisfied” with her acknowledgment during a January deposition that she never had any personal knowledge of any incidents that would support the postings about the company. Crowley also said she never intended to suggest the company had violated any laws, according to the filing.

From what I have read, the suit was doomed from the start. However, the plaintiff was able to drag Ms. Crowley through this litigation for however many months, and thus the damage was done. Ms. Crowley had to pay thousands of dollars in legal bills, her speech was chilled, and anyone else who thought of speaking negatively of eAppraiseIT gave pause to that decision lest they also find themselves the subject of an unsupportable lawsuit.

The “well satisfied” language seems to be a bit of backpedaling. My suspicion is that eAppraiseIT finally figured out that it couldn’t show defamation or financial harm in the case at all — and thus its suit was about to become a far greater liability than any negative comments published on the internet.

3 Responses to eAppraiseIT defamation suit dropped

  1. Archimedes says:

    Your comment about “backpedaling” may be correct. However, plaintiff did get something. They got the defendant to admit it’s claims that plaintiff was engaged in wrongdoing were unsupported. This may not mean much for litigation, but it does for business. If a client learned of the allegatioins and expressed concerns, the plaintiff now had a very good answer.

  2. Mille says:

    That’s eAppraiseIT’s version. I happen to know that Ms. Crowley personally possessed documentation from appraisers all over the country showing pressure from eAppraiseIT to “revisit” values, acknowledgement that they opened “secure” PDF documents to alter reports with their watermark, they represented to appraisers that their uploaded documents went straight to the lenders without alterations and that all appraisal data was protected. On the flip side, they marketed their AVM (automated valuation model) data as being mined from thousands of apprasial reports moving through their system.

    Now, maybe MS. Crowley herself was never strong-armed by eAPE, but she had plenty of evidence in her arsenal that other appraisers had been. She spoke for us all and her legal defense was supported by appraisers from all over the nation, Canada and Australia.

  3. Archimedes says:

    Mille,
    So YOU say. On the other hand, I can also claim to know the defendant personally, and to have reviewed all her files personally, and that there is no evidence that this plaintiff ever pressured anyone.

    Until you can introduce your rumors into court as evidence, legally, they don’t exist.

    FTR, there are at least two other suits alleging this plaintiff was involved in wrongdoing. One was filed by Cumomo and the other a class action. Nowhere in either complaint does anyone say this plaintiff “pressued” appraisers from “all over the country.”

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