(CN) — A music promoter who has appeared on Donald Trump's "The Apprentice" cannot bring defamation claims against a customer who blasted her company online, a federal judge ruled.
In May 2011, for her son's wedding, Honey Bernstein hired New York-based event planner Iris Gillon Music'n Celebrations LLC, or IGMC, which has appeared on TV shows "Platinum Weddings" and "The Apprentice."
The contract provided for a DJ and a five-piece band called "Unanimous" during the one-hour ceremony and four-hour reception at Bernstein's home in Goshen, N.Y., court records show.
Though Gillon sent Bernstein electrical specifications for the live music two days before the wedding, the company says Bernstein never relayed that information to her electrician, who had to hastily rearrange things once the band leader arrived and noticed the problem.
Ultimately unimpressed with the band, Bernstein allegedly told them she was not satisfied, and eventually had them stop playing and put on her own iPod playlist instead.
Three days later, Bernstein posted on ripoffreport.com that Gillon provided "way below par service — did not get what was contracted for."
Gillon "did not deliver acceptable service," the review states. "Iris is a marketeer par excellence — an unusually good salesperson with an impressive and well-designed website. Don't let these things fool you."
Although Bernstein said "the number of musicians promised did not show up" and "the band leader had no personality whatsoever and though he tried hard to please, could not read the crowd," a wedding video shows all were there — while she danced in front of them, according to court records.
Bernstein also complained of the extra expense of solving electrical issue, and said she would "never, ever recommend using this company."
She then allegedly emailed Gillon about her plan to publicize her tremendous disappointment.
Gillon, in turn, sued Bernstein in August 2012, alleging defamation, libel and false light.
U.S. District Judge William Martini found in 2013 that only two of the posting's factual statements could support a defamation claim, namely that the number of contracted musicians did not show up, and that Gillon sent the wrong electrical specifications.
But Martini awarded Bernstein summary judgment Thursday.
"At best, the [musicians] statement imputes incompetence to plaintiffs in their inability to provide wedding services; however, incompetence does not rise to the level of defamation," the judge wrote in a 19-page opinion. "The statement does not suggest that plaintiffs deceived defendant or intentionally perpetrated some other harm by sending fewer musicians than were contractually required."
Rather, the statement "sounds exclusively in product disparagement and cannot be considered defamatory because it only criticizes plaintiffs' services," the ruling states.
The same goes for the claim regarding the electrical situation, Martini ruled.
The judge tossed aside the so-called expert opinion of Shane McMurray, the CEO and founder of The Wedding Report Inc., that Bernstein's review lost Gillon $250,000 to $300,000 of gross collected commissions and $100,000 to $110,000 in annual personal income.
"The [expert] opinion states that Mr. McMurray is the CEO of a company that 'collects and publishes detailed statistics on spending in the wedding industry,' but it provides no information as to how the statistics are compiled and analyzed, or how Mr. McMurray's experience qualifies him to opine on the deleterious effect of negative internet postings to businesses," Martini wrote.
Emery Mishky, one of Bernstein's attorneys with Margolis Edelstein in Berkeley Heights, N.J., said, "The ruling is still within the time limit for any appeal so we are unable to comment - other than that we are pleased with the ruling, and believe it represents a just outcome under the facts and circumstances."
Gillon's attorney, M. Ari Jacobson with Song Law in Fort Lee, N.J., did not return a request for comment emailed Sunday.
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