Court Finds 'Gripe Site' Is Protected Free Speech, Not Defamation

The contents of a New Jersey man's "gripe site" -- a 45-page Web site dedicated to the perceived misdeeds of his car insurer -- were protected free speech that did not constitute defamation, a Manhattan judge has ruled.

Penn Warranty Corp. alleged that Ronald DiGiovanni's site made eight libelous statements about its business, including that it is a "blatantly dishonest company" that has been "running scams," "committing fraud on a grand scale," and "ripping off its contract holders for quite a while."

Last week, [NY] Supreme Court Justice Judith J. Gische dismissed Penn Warranty's suit, upholding DiGiovanni's right to maintain the site. The site, however, has not operated since January 2004.

"The court holds that the cause of action for libel ... should be dismissed because the challenged speech is merely a statement of defendant's personal opinion about the quality of services provided by plaintiff company," Gische wrote in Penn Warranty Corp. v. DiGiovanni, 600659/04.

Details here from the New York Law Journal via