Med Express uses broken Ohio law to silence critics who say true things

Are you a lawyer in Ohio? If so, your pro-bono services are urgently needed to defeat a trollish, bullying legal action from Med Express, a company that sells refurb medical equipment on eBay. The company is suing one of its customers for providing accurate, negative feedback on eBay's comment system, trying to establish a precedent that saying true things on the Internet should be illegal if it harms your business. They're relying on the fact that Ohio has no anti-SLAPP laws -- laws designed to protect people against the use of litigation threats to extort silence from critics -- and have admitted that, while they have no case, they believe that they can use the expense of dragging their victims into an Ohio court to win anyway. Ken from Popehat has more:

This is the ugly truth of the legal system: litigants and lawyers can manipulate it to impose huge expense on defendants no matter what the merits of their complaint. Censors can abuse the system to make true speech so expensive and risky that citizens will be silenced. Regrettably, Ohio does not have an anti-SLAPP statute, so Med Express and James Amodio can behave in this matter with relative impunity. If Ms. Nicholls has to incur ruinous legal expenses to vindicate her rights, the bad guys win, whatever the ultimate outcome of the case.

Unless, that is, you will help Amy Nicholls stand up — not for $1.44, but for the freedom to speak the truth without being abused by a broken legal system.

If you are an attorney practicing in Medina County, Ohio, please consider offering pro bono assistance. Mr. Levy will be coordinating assistance, and I can tell you from personal experience that it is a privilege to work with him. Help give Med Express and James Amodio the legal curb-stomping they so richly deserve. Justice, karma, and the esteem of free speech supporters everywhere will be your reward.

If you aren't an attorney, you can help, too. Med Express should not be permitted to act in this manner without consequence. The natural and probable consequence is widespread publication of their conduct. Help by publicizing the case on Facebook, Twitter, on your blog, on forums, and on every other venue available to you. Ask yourself — would you want to do business with a company that abuses the legal system to extract revenge against customers who leave truthful negative feedback?

The Popehat Signal: Stand Against Rank Thuggery In Ohio



  1. So… maybe this is a good thing?  I mean finally exposing the fact that lawsuits can be, and are used to ruin/silence opponents?  How many stories have we heard where the bad guys win just because they can afford more lawyers?  Just asking.  

  2. ” They’re relying on the fact that Ohio has no anti-SLAPP laws — laws
    designed to protect people against the use of litigation threats to
    extort silence from critics — and have admitted that, while they have
    no case, they believe that they can use the expense of dragging their
    victims into an Ohio court to win anyway”.

    This is evil.

  3. You can find a feedback form (requires you to be logged into eBay) here. Why not send ’em a few choice words about how legal bullies can get bullied right back by the internet at large.

  4. IIRC Ken updated the story announcing she now has pro bono representation.

    “UPDATE WITH AWESOMENESS: I offer my profound respect and appreciation to Jeffrey M. Nye and Thomas G. Haren,
    who have answered the call. If their names sound familiar, it may be
    because they stepped up and represented a blogger pro bono just a few months ago.
    I understand that they will be stepping in to assist Ms. Nicholls pro
    bono. Moreover, I understand that multiple attorneys are now
    investigating whether Med Express has filed other defamation suits to
    silence negative feedback. I’ll report when I hear more.
    I’ve said this before: free speech depends on people like Jeff and
    Tom. Anti-SLAPP statutes are slowly proliferating across the country
    and more people are becoming educated about First Amendment rights.
    Ultimately, though, our broken legal system allows bullies to extort
    silence through the credible threat of stressful, expensive, uncertain
    litigation even when they have no valid claim. It takes lawyers like
    Jeff and Tom — and like a number of other good people who wrote me in
    response to the Popehat Signal — to push back against that problem. I’m
    just sitting on my ass blogging; Jeff and Tom are putting their skills
    and many hours of their valuable time on the line during a bad economy.
    I salute them, and if I ever have to recommend lawyers in Ohio, they
    will be at the top of my list.”

      1. Scrub it through a full-width text editor between copying and pasting. Disqus sucks.

  5. Let’s remember the name “Med Express”. 

    How hard can it be to convince people not to shop with this awful company?  Who would want to give money to someone who, first of all, makes customers unhappy enough to post negative feedback and second, tries to ruin the lives of their unhappy customers?

    With a little effort, we can make this more expensive for them than they’re making it for poor Amy.

    1. The are an eBay seller who sometimes has 2nd hand medical stuff, not drugs and the like.
      Someone smarter than me did research and found this isn’t the first time the filed suits over eBay feedback, and having not read those I offer no input if they are as stupid as this one.
      This case is extremely stupid as it is based on the company POTENTIALLY being damaged in the future with higher eBay fees.
      They found some other lawsuits in the discussion on Popehat about the man behind the company… doesn’t look like he is good people.

        1. You need to get in line behind John Steele (wait he dropped his), Paul Duffy, Prenda, and Alpha Law.

    2. Just be careful that you get the right one – the Med Express in Virginia is a series of clinics that I’ve done a lot of IT work for, not an eBay reseller.

    1. It is amazing how many people in stories I’ve been following keep saying ‘Yes, and make it a double!’.

  6. Is there some way to convey to eBay that you, as an eBay user, think it would be in their best interests to revoke these guys’ seller status over this?

    1.  Ebay exists in a vacuum.  The only thing that they bother coming down from the clouds for is something that majorly affects their bottom line.  Even though they get named in med_express_sales suits as a codefendant, once the unhappy buyer buckles, the suits are dropped, and ebay never feels any pain.

    2. As eBay has been a party to several suits filed by this person my answer would be no.
      However as the story gets more coverage (Ars, Popehat, here, Techdirt, etc.) you might see the monolith that is eBay decide the negative publicity of their rating system driving sellers to extort good reviews might do something, though probably not enough.

  7. I don’t understand why anybody would retain counsel for a case like this.  If the litigants are hoping to drag out the case until your legal fees bankrupt you, why not represent yourself?  It’s free, or nearly so, and you can pay yourself your zero fee forever without even putting a dent in your budget.  Just respond to every angry letter from their lawyers with “nuyk nuyk nuyk” and suddenly they’re the ones spending a lot and getting nothing.

      1. Hell if I know.  You’ll notice it starts with “I don’t understand.” I guess it should work in theory, but IANAL.

    1. I was wondering that too. I hope someone with more knowledge on the subject can comment. Is it because, even though it *sounds* like a slam dunk case, there’s still the possibility that without a lawyer, you could make some totally reasonable mistake that would cause you to lose, like not filing some sort of paperwork on time (as an example)?

    2. The two main reasons being 1) There are certain procedural nuances to court; while they’re often a bit less strict in civil than criminal cases, you can still bone yourself pretty badly with a combination of fierce enough opposition and simple mistakes and 2) You still need to take the time to respond, both in court and to all sorts of documents.

    3. In that case it will go to court and the defendant will drown under a mountain of expert witnesses for the plaintiff. Worse, then we WILL have case history – just for the bad guys.

      1. Again, a lot depends on the money at stake.  If damages are likely to be trifling, who’s going to pay those expert witnesses?  If it’s over a million then lawyer up and don’t complain.

        I guess another factor is how much money the defendant actually has.

        1. Statisticians have done the math, and can probably state ‘as experts’ the cost of a negative review, when compared with annual sales and the number of positive reviews. I’m sure that they can assign a dollar amount to any negative review. And as far as the worth of such a lawsuit to the company – if they win, they win forever, which makes it worth it.

        2. Isn’t the whole point of a negative review to cause a loss of sales though? I mean, you want to warn other people not to do business with shady jerks. I certainly HOPE they lost business as a result. So how do the courts reconcile that?

  8. Ebay should have a policy where, if you use their service as a seller, you have to agree that anyone can say anything about the transaction that they want.  If a customer says that the product was a rip off or overpriced or misrepresented – fine – the seller holds the company and their customers harmless – by agreement as terms of use – Under new laws, violation of terms of use agreements is punishible by 1M$ and 25 years in prison – right?

    1. They do have that – except the last part.  Ebay probably can’t make it impossible for one user to sue another, and they certainly can’t put anybody in prison.

      1. They are getting there.  Remember you can end up sued because some corporations magic never wrong machine claims you infringed copyright.  No hearing, No Judge, just punishment from a cartel holding saying ‘because we said so’.
        ‘Merika YAY!

  9. Someone claiming to be the owner is posting in the thread over on Popehat now.
    can you say backpeddle?  I knew you could.

  10. After I sent them a pissed-off eBay message I got the same backpeddling in my eBay inbox. Score one for the good guys!

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