(CN) - PissedConsumer.com need not identify the person who posted anonymous criticisms of a finance company on its website, a New York appeals court ruled.
The posts in question described a supposedly misleading advertising promise by Woodbridge Structured Funding. Claiming that the structured-settlement business had promised $500 gas cards to prospective customers, the Pissed Consumer user wrote that Woodbridge "Lie(s) To Their Clients" and "will forget about you and ... all the promises they made to you" after "you sign on the dotted line."
Woodbridge wanted a judge to compel Pissed Consumer's disclosure of the author behind those statements, but the Manhattan Supreme Court denied Woodbridge's petition.
The Appellate Division's Manhattan-based First Department affirmed on Feb. 19.
"The motion was properly denied since petitioners failed to demonstrate that it has a meritorious cause of action as required to obtain pre-action discovery," the unsigned opinion states.
Woodbridge failed to sway the court that the bloggers' allegations were false, according to the ruling.
"When the statements complained of are viewed in context, they suggest to a reasonable reader that the writer was a dissatisfied customer who utilized respondent's consumers' grievance website to express an opinion," the five-justice panel said.
Other factors supporting the view that the statements constituted nondefamatory opinion were "the disgruntled tone, anonymous posting and predominant use of statements that cannot be definitively proven true or false," the court found.
Woodbridge meanwhile failed to show that the online statements damaged it, according to the ruling.
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