Last week, I blogged here and on the Citizen Media Law Project Blog about a lawsuit filed by Effie Mayhew against Chris Grotke and Lise LePage, co-founders and owners of iBrattleboro.com,
in which Mayhew claims that Grotke and LePage bear liability for a
comment a user posted on the iBrattleboro site. You can read more about the lawsuit, and follow its progress, by accessing the entry, Mayhew v. Dunn, in our legal threats database.
As I mentioned in my previous posts, Grotke and LePage are almost
certainly shielded from liability under CDA 230. After reading their
motion and re-reading Mayhew’s complaint, it is clear that the court
should dismiss the claims against them. Of course, the case would
continue against David Dunn, who is the author of the allegedly
defamatory comment, as he does not have a basis for immunity under CDA
According to Grotke and LePage’s motion, this case meets all of the requirements for immunity under CDA 230:
iBrattleboro.com fits the definition of an
interactive computer service as contemplated by the CDA because it
provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer
server and access to the Internet. See 47 U.S.C. § 230(f)(2). . . .
complaint [treats Grotke and LePage as publishers of the allegedly
defamatory comment] when it asserts that iBrattleboro’s disclaimer of
authorship of the content of the Dunn message “is insufficient to
escape liability for the libel committed in the article.” Complaint at
[T]he information subject to the
claim has been provided by a third-party information content provider.
To find that this element is unquestionably fulfilled the court need
look no farther than plaintiff’s complaint itself. Plaintiff states
that “On or about Sunday, September 30, 2007, Defendant Dunn authored
an article on the website known as iBrattleboro . . . .” Complaint at
Because Vermont doesn’t have an anti-SLAPP statute,
it’s unlikely that Grotke and LePage will be entitled to recover their
attorney’s fees once the claims against them are dismissed. (SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.”)
Anti-SLAPP statutes generally allow a defendant to recover her attorney’s fees and costs if the
lawsuit was filed in retaliation for the target’s speaking out on a
public issue or controversy. Unfortunately, Vermont doesn’t have such a statute.
event, let’s hope the court moves quickly and dismisses Grotke and LePage from the
case so they can focus their attention on continuing to make
iBrattleboro.com an exemplary platform for community journalism.