CHICAGO (CN) – An Illinois woman living in China claims an international shipping company bought a website domain for her name and made it appear that she was offering erotic massages to get even for negative reviews she posted about its service.
The website in question features a picture of Wendy Sulda and suggests that she is involved in the sex trade.
Sulda sued shippingquest.com, its affiliate pricebreakshipping.com and their owners Richard Bells and Mitchell Rosenberg on Tuesday in Chicago federal court, claiming the website is defamatory.
A nanny and teacher since 1983, Sulda operates and teaches at a school for special needs children in Shenzhen, China.
“Plaintiff has expended great efforts and resources on advertising and garnering earned media to make her name recognizable as a brand in Shenzhen, the South China children’s special needs education market and teaching community,” the complaint states, adding that “the continued success of plaintiff and plaintiff’s business is entirely dependent upon maintaining her good name and reputation.”
That good name has been dragged through the mud by a new shipping company she decided to try last year, Sulda claims.
After back surgery, Sulda couldn’t use her usual international shipper to send a pallet of school supplies from her home in Joliet, Ill., to the port of Hong Kong, where she normally picks it up. Instead, she says she found shippingquest.com and paid over $2,000 to have her supplies sent directly to Shenzhen.
When her shipment showed up in Hong Kong, “defendants blamed non-existent local contacts at the shipment destination for their inability to deliver door to door,” according to the lawsuit.
The complaint alleges ShippingQuest tricks customers into thinking they will get door-to-door deliveries, but the company actually has no ability to do so and makes extra money on a service that does not exist.
Sulda was offered a $500 refund, which she told ShippingQuest was not enough. She also posted several negative reviews online of its services, she says.
That is when “defendants directed specific threats towards plaintiff that they would post false and defamatory content online with the stated specific intent of damaging her personal and business reputation” unless she removed the reviews, the lawsuit states.
In an email chain copied in the complaint, Sulda claims ShippingQuest told her the company would smear her name all over the internet unless she took her posts down.
“We have an entire IT Dept to dedicate to drag your name along the entire Net and make you famous in ways you will not want your kids, friends, family and anyone seeing [sic],” one of the emails allegedly states.
According to Sulda, ShippingQuest made good on its promise and purchased the domain wendysulda.com, where it posted a picture of her copied from another website with her full name, the city she lives in and the words “erotic massage” above it. Her picture is surrounded by suggestive images, according to an exhibit accompanying the complaint.
Sulda claims the website suggests that she “is a prostitute engaged in the sex trade by offering ‘erotic massage’ services in violation of the laws of the United States, the State of Illinois and the People’s Republic of China.” It also “accuses plaintiff of engaging in adultery or fornication,” the lawsuit states.
As of Wednesday, wendysulda.com is not online.
Julie Bandras of ShippingQuest told Courthouse News via email that the company provided the door-to-port service that Sulda requested and paid for.
“She threatened that if we do not reimburse her $500 she will go on posting campaign to defame ShippingQuest. And she did exactly that. She attempted to Black Male [sic] us. After the review of her posting we stopped corresponding with her [sic],” Bandras says.
Bandras added, “We have no idea about what URL and what she is talking about regarding her personal name. We don’t have time for that. All we know is that Ms Sulda posted our good name of 15 years on many websites because we did not give her back $500.00 [sic]…Now she is doing this. Simply unreal.”
Sulda seeks punitive damages for claims of defamation, copyright infringement and invasion of privacy, as well as alleged violations of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act and the Illinois Right of Publicity Act. She is represented by L. Ford Banister II in New York.