(CN) – A music promoter who has appeared on “The Apprentice” and “Platinum Brides” television programs cannot sue an unhappy client over critical postings on an online consumer complaint board, a federal judge ruled.
Eu Ting and Justin Zambuto hired a singer named Bedia and her band Awestruck through Iris Gillon Music’n Celebrations LLC (IGMC), a New York-based event planner, in September 2010.
The contract allegedly said that, “unless Bedia is stricken with a last minute illness or act of God preventing her from performing,” Gillon would notify the couple ahead of time if the singer could not perform, and provide a similar performer.
But at the start of Ting and Zambuto’s reception, a band member told them that Bedia was not scheduled to perform that night due to her pregnancy.
Gillon says Bedia got sick suddenly, but failed to offer than explanation until after the wedding.
An unhappy Gillon later discovered that Ting and Zambuto had blasted her on RipoffReport.com – just two months after their “terrible experience” with her company.
Gillon sent Ting and Zambuto a cease-and-desist letter, threatening to sue if they failed to remove the posting by the end of the month. But since the website does not allow users to take down their reviews, Gillon eventually paid Ting and Zambuto $3,500 to post a rebuttal of their own critique.
Despite the subsequent post by Ting and Zambuto noting that, “when Iris learned of our claims, she responded professionally and we were amicably able to resolve our differences,” Gillon sued the couple in New Jersey.
In addition to damages, the promoter also sought declaratory relief and removal of the original post on claims of defamation, libel, injurious falsehood, false light, unlawful interference with prospective economic advantage, contract rescission based on duress, and product disparagement.
U.S. District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh dismissed Gillon’s claims on Sept. 20.
“The settlement agreement unequivocally resolves and releases both parties from any claims arising from the posting or from defendants’ dissatisfaction with plaintiffs’ services,” Cavanaugh wrote.
“It is simply not plausible to believe that defendants signed away their rights to sue plaintiffs and agreed to maintain confidentiality and make a follow-up posting, but that plaintiffs maintained their right to sue defendants,” he added.
The claim based on duress also failed.
“Plaintiffs misleadingly and incorrectly assert defendants threatened to continue to make false public accusations about plaintiffs with ‘rabid vigilance’ in an attempt to destroy her business,” Cavanaugh wrote. “However, in the email, defendant Zambuto only stated that he would respond to plaintiffs’ threats to sue for defamation using ‘facts and supporting documentation, and with rabid vigilance in civil court.’
“Plaintiffs also mischaracterize defendant’s statement that he is within his ‘rights as a consumer’ to communicate about his negative business experience with plaintiffs ‘on websites, blogs, etc.’ as a threat to publish false defamatory statements about plaintiffs,” Cavanaugh continued. “These mischaracterizations of the exchange between the parties do not demonstrate that defendants acted in a coercive manner or in a way that would ‘overcome the will of a person of ordinary firmness.'”
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