Mar 4, 2011

Cookie Twitter Lawsuit Crumbles

While the settlement of the Twitter libel lawsuit by fashion designer Dawn Simorangkir against singer Courtney Love is getting a fair amount of attention, there's been less attention paid to another Twitter libel suit that was also dismissed in early February.

In December 2009, Dr. Sanford Siegal sued celebrity Kim Kardashian after she published criticisms of Siegal's "Cookie Diet" on her Twitter feedSiegal v. Kardashian, No. 2009-93439-CA-01 (Fla. Cir. Ct., Miami-Dade County filed Dec. 29, 2009) (complaint).  More precisely, Kardashian's Tweets claimed that Dr. Siegel had improperly listed her as an endorser of his diet plan, and came as her attorneys demanded that Dr. Siegel's company remove her name from its site.  Among the Tweets at issue in the suit:
  • "Dr. Siegal's Cookie Diet is falsely promoting that I'm on this diet. NOT TRUE! I would never do this unhealthy diet! I do QuickTrim!"
  • If this Dr. Siegal is lying about me being on this diet, what else are they lying about? Not cool!"

Seigel's lawsuit said that while his website linked to articles from various news sources which stated (incorrectly, it turns out) that Kardashian was an advocate of his diet plan, the site did not itself make the claim. This could have made an interesting legal issue: does linking to an inaccurate statement on another website make the site with the link responsible for the falsehood? 

The lawsuit also claimed that the links on the Cookie Diet website actually benefited Kardashian, who "benefited from her name being publicly associated with Dr. Siegal and Dr. Siegal's Cookie Diet Company products, both of which had received incredible media attention over the past year."

The lawsuit received a fair amount of attention at the time it was filed (including here, here, here, and here), but then faded into obscurity.

On Feb. 2, Dr. Siegal and his company agreed to dismiss the lawsuit, perhaps indicating that the parties reached a settlement. (The notice of dismissal is available on the court's website.)

With the dismissal of this suit and the settlement of the Dawn Simorangkir-Courtney Love Twitter libel suit, there apparently still hasn't been a defamation suit based on Twitter postings that has gone to trial.  But, like other forms of social media that have seen defamation trials and verdicts, it's just a matter of time.


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