CHICAGO (CN) – The 7th Circuit threw out Wendler & Ezra’s defamation claim against rival law firm American International Group. The appellate court ruled that Wendler & Ezra had no evidence linking AIG to an anonymous Web posting stating that attorney Brian Wendler had been arrested for domestic battery.
Wendler & Ezra specializes in truck drivers’ tort claims. On a bulletin board on teamster.net, a Web site frequented by truckers, someone copied an excerpt from a local paper that said, “Attorney, Brian M. Wendler, 41, was arrested Sunday AM in his Edwardsville home for alleged domestic battery. Wendler was taken to Madison County jail.”
Wendler & Ezra did not take issue with the accurate statement that Wendler had been arrested for domestic battery, but with a statement prefacing the clip that said, “Don’t make the same mistake me and my husband did – it’s a waste of time.”
Wendler & Ezra claimed the post was not the work of a disgruntled former client, but of rival AIG trying to steer potential clients away from the plaintiff firm.
To show that the message came from someone at AIG, Wendler & Ezra presented an affidavit by the site’s self-described “webmaster.” His affidavit stated that he had used software to trace the originating IP address to a computer registered to AIG.
“The affidavit does not state, however, what software had been employed, how it worked, what data had been provided to the program, and what if anything had been done to find out whether the poster had spoofed one of AIG’s addresses,” Judge Easterbrook wrote.
Because his statement provided little more than a bottom line, the court found it inadmissible. “That left Wendler & Ezra without any evidence linking defendants to the message,” the ruling states. The judges affirmed summary judgment for AIG.