Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Florida Homeowner's Association Sues Resident For Critical Blog Comments, Seeks Identity Of Other Commenters | Techdirt

Florida Homeowner's Association Sues Resident For Critical Blog Comments, Seeks Identity Of Other Commenters | Techdirt
Thanks to Shu Bartholomew for the link to this blog post:

"A few months back, we wrote about an HOA president in Indiana going ballistic with bogus legal threats towards pretty much anyone who criticized him. And now, here's a story out of Naples, Florida, where an HOA for "Fiddler's Creek" is using homeowners' fees to sue one of their own homeowners, a resident named James Schutt, because he made some comments the HOA board members don't like on a blog about the community." 


Fred Pilot said...

I suspect this and other HOA board members are going to discover to their surprise the courts will consider them public figures in their communities and thus make it very difficult for them to prevail against their critics.

IC_deLight said...

... and in many states the board members may find themselves on the hook for the defendant's attorney fees. The lawsuits filed by economically more powerful entities are called SLAPP suits (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation). Such suits usually lack merit and are designed to keep people quiet through threat of financial harm. Laws adopted to combat SLAPP suits are called anti-SLAPP laws.

Texas adopted an anti-SLAPP statute after a certain senator who runs an HOA management company went around threatening folks who fingered him as the person behind his enterprise - and exposed his self-serving anti-homeowner legislative activity.

In that case he tried to insist that the HOA management company was "private". The court would have none of it and noted that he was a public figure and that the public had an interest in knowing his allegiances and business activities when he is authoring/modifying legislation.

Normally defendants in tort-type litigation have to simply suffer the costs of defending. A common theme in anti-SLAPP statutes is that the plaintiff can be held accountable for the defendant's attorney fees.

Attorneys who practice in the defamation/first amendment arena will tell you that it is almost ALWAYS a bad mistake for public figures to sue for defamation. Worse than having negative statements circulating is having the court establish that the statements were true!

Often times even worse true news about the plaintiff comes out. Many times the plaintiff's own ego ends up costing them the rest of their political career. I've seen public figure plaintiffs lose jobs and pensions after they filed suit when discovery turns up that they lied about their credentials. Their egos just wouldn't let them leave the defendant alone.