Internet Defamation Case Awards $11M In Damages

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[Mean People]
A Florida woman has been awarded $11.3 million in a defamation lawsuit against a Louisiana woman who posted messages on the Internet accusing her of being a "crook," a "con artist," and a "fraud."

Of course it didn't help her case to not show up in court to defend herself. However, the plaintiff continued the lawsuit on principle because it "hurt her feelings."

Legal analysts say the Sept. 19 award by a jury in Broward County, Fla.-—first reported Friday by the Daily Business Review-—represents the largest such judgment over postings on an Internet blog or message board. Lyrissa Lidsky, a University of Florida law professor who specializes in free-speech issues, calls the award "astonishing."

Lidsky says the case could represent a coming trend in court fights over online messages because the woman who won the damage award, Sue Scheff of Weston, Fla., pursued the case even though she knew the defendant, Carey Bock of Mandeville, La., has no hope of paying such an award. Bock, who had to leave her home for several months because of Hurricane Katrina, couldn't afford an attorney and didn't show up for the trial.

"What's interesting about this case is that (Scheff) was so vested in being vindicated, she was willing to pay court costs," Lidsky says. "They knew before trial that the defendant couldn't pay, so what's the point in going to the jury?"

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