Music Producer May Sue ‘Ripped Off’ Customer

     (CN) – A music promoter who has appeared on “The Apprentice” may sue a customer for blasting her company online and damaging her Google reputation, a federal judge ruled.
     Honey Bernstein hired Iris Gillon Music’n Celebrations LLC (IGMC), a New York-based promoter for roughly 200 musicians, caterers, and event vendors, which has also appeared on the television show, “Platinum Weddings,” in May 2011.
     But the fulfillment of the contract – which called for five musicians on keyboards, guitar-vocals, sax-vocals, female vocals, congas, trumpet, and a disc jockey to perform at Bernstein’s son’s August wedding – left the customer unsatisfied.
     Just three days after the wedding, Bernstein posted on a scathing attack on Gillon and her failure to deliver “acceptable service.”
     “Iris is a marketeer [sic] par excellence – an unusually good salesperson with an impressive and well-designed website,” Bernstein wrote. “Don’t let these things fool you. My son got married this past weekend and (1) the singer was awful (2) the number of musicians promised did not show up (3) the band leader had no personality whatsoever and though he tried hard to please, could not read the crowd.”
     Bernstein also complained that she had to pay an “enormous” fee to have her electrician make sure the band had enough power, in the rain, as a result of Gillon’s alleged clerical errors.
     “Also, notice how the rebuttals to [a different rip-off report] are from employees,” Bernstein added. “I wonder why that is? I would never, ever recommend using this company.”
     After the customer’s posting allegedly became the top Google search result for Gillon’s name, she and her company sued Bernstein in New Jersey Federal Court.
     Before the producer allegedly paid search optimization companies thousands of dollars to reduce the posting’s visibility, Gillon says she lost thousands more from scared off, potential customers.
     One customer demanded a $3,700 refund after reading the rip-off report, Gillon says.
     She asserts claims for libel, libel per se, libel innuendo, injurious falsehood, defamatory injury to reputation, product disparagement, and false light.
     Bernstein moved to dismiss all counts, and U.S. District Judge William Martini partially granted the motion last week, finding that only certain of Bernstein’s comments are actionable.
     “If potential customers believe that plaintiffs break their promises, business will likely suffer,” Martini wrote. The judge later added: “Construing the facts in the amended complaint as true, it is plausible that when Gillon posted the musicians statement, she either knew it to be false or acted in reckless disregard of its falsity. Finally, plaintiffs have pled special damages because they allege that the posting caused a customer to lose confidence in Gillon and request a refund.”
     All but Bernstein’s comments about the musicians and the electrician constitute protected opinion speech, the ruling states.
     “Nothing suggests that Bernstein was negligent went it came to the truth of the electricians statement,” Martini wrote. “After the wedding, Bernstein sent an email to Gillon informing her that the band had said that Gillon’s electrical specifications were incorrect. Plaintiffs do not challenge the veracity of Gillon’s account of her discussion with the band. Accordingly, plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged that Bernstein was careless, or negligent, when she posted the electricians statement. Nor have plaintiffs plausibly alleged that Bernstein knew the electricians statement was false when she posted it.”
     The court refused to dismiss the libel innuendo claim, uncertain of whether it considers Gillon a “limited public figure.”

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