NORFOLK, Va. (CN) – A shellfish farm demands $1.4 million in damages from the operator of the WeHireAliens website. It claims the website operator, The Fire Coalition, defamed it by accusing it of violating immigration laws and taking bribes.
Chincoteague Shellfish Farms says it has raised and shipped clams and oysters from Chincoteague Island for 17 years.
The defendant operates a website ostensibly “to identify employers who are in violation of immigration laws by employing illegal aliens,” according to the complaint in City Court. But the shellfish farm says, “Defendant does not limit its identification of employers to those who have actually violated immigration laws.”
Chincoteague cites a statement from the defendant’s website: “So the purpose of this website is to expose ‘alleged’ employers of illegal aliens. …”
Chincoteague claims the Fire Coalition published defamatory statements that include: “‘There is a older man that works there who gets papers for a lot of the other immigrants’; ‘the plant manager Michael Mcgee has been given payment for turning a blind eye to the hiring of illegal workers’; and the plant manager ‘charges each immigrant a weekly fee’ for covering up their illegal status,” according to the complaint.
Chincoteague says the malicious statements have damaged its name, reputation, and goodwill.
Chincoteague claims the defendant intended to hurt it, and cites the mission statement on the WeHireAliens website: “(I)f you know of a suspected employer of illegal aliens report them here. Second, search or browse the ‘alleged’ employers of illegal aliens, and if you are compelled by the evidence, email them telling them you will no longer patronize their business. In the same email, make sure they know that you will also tell everyone you know NOT to patronize their business. We’ve got pre-written emails to help you do this. Finally, use our website to report these ‘alleged’ employers to the proper authorities. Again, we’ve got emails already written that you can send off at the touch of a button.” (Sneer quotes as in complaint.)
Chincoteague says it warned the defendant twice, through counsel, to cease and desist defaming, but the “defendant did not respond to either of these communications.”
It seeks $1 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages. It is represented by David Sullivan with Kaufman & Canoles.