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Blueberry heir loses libel suit against drunken lothario

Gorilla-fisting comment didn't sit well, apparently

"Party from hell"

On that night of nights, DiMeo's firm sold $100 tickets to an open bar party at a Philadelphia restaurant, Le Jardin. According to the restaurant owner, the contract was for 325 guests, but at least twice that actually showed up for the festivities.

The food and booze ran out almost immediately. The party goers became unruly, raiding the restaurant for whatever they could find. Two mixed-media artworks were stolen, and one of the revelers tried to make off with the cashbox. DiMeo allegedly walked out of the event once the fracas heated up.

The restaurant's owner finally called in the cops to prevent the mob from tearing itself or his restaurant apart. In the aftermath, each side accused the other of violating the terms of the deal. Renamity filed suit against the restaurant a few days later and the restaurant countersued, both alleging breach of contract.

That's when things heated up on the Web. Several threads about the party opened up on Max's forum. Initially the posts mocked the party, but the comments quickly turned to DiMeo.

The posts were not kind. They bashed his PR career, his sexuality, his blueberry farm, his modeling and his facial features - even going so far as to suggest that DiMeo's expression in modeling shots resulted from an approximation of what it would be like to be fisted by a gorilla.

Crash and burn

Understandably, DiMeo did not much care for the posts. Rather than trying to uncover the identities of the offending posters, however, he elected to sue Max as the operator of the site.

That was DiMeo's second mistake in this whole imbroglio, after not bringing in enough alcohol for the party. Max's site qualifies as an interactive computer service under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, according to the courts who weighed in on the case. As such, Max is immune from liability for information posted by third-party content providers.

DiMeo never alleged that Max wrote any of the disputed posts himself, thus the only material in question came from other information providers. The district court determined that Section 230 applied, and dismissed the action.

The Third Circuit agreed with the district court last week. In fact, the Circuit panel released its opinion as a non-precedential ruling, which probably indicates that the judges considered the legal issues so obvious that they didn't think there would be any point in adding their decision to the Circuit's body of case law.

The interesting question now is whether DiMeo has a cause of action against his attorneys for advising him to pursue a lawsuit that looked doomed from the start. Probably not, but considering that DiMeo recently declared bankruptcy, his bankruptcy trustee might want to consider bringing one anyway, just to roll the dice.

After all, what's one more lawsuit in all this? ®


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