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Censorship Your Rights Online

Google sued as PetsWarehouse Lawsuit Continues. 988

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the strange-gets-stranger dept.
Ikari Gendou writes "In April, Slashdot reported that Robert Novak, owner of Internet pet store Pets Warehouse filed a $15,000,000US lawsuit against several individuals who made comments about his company's poor service on an Internet mailing list. Also named in it and in the suit that followed were the owner of the mailing list, the owners of several informational sites about the lawsuit, the owners of other forums where the lawsuit was discussed, the attorney for the defense, and several sites that merely ran banner ads promoting the defense fund set up for the lawsuit. Some defendents settled out of fear, and were forced to pay cash, transfer their personal domain names to Novak, or even run banner ads for Petswarehouse on their websites. Now, the attorney for the defense has announced that in round three of the lawsuit, Google has been sued, as well as several other sites that have carried news about the lawsuit, such as search engine Judge-For-Yourself.com and pet stores DoctorDog.com and FerretStore.com. Robert Novak is representing himself in this lawsuit, and thus it is effectively costing him nothing to persue this campaign of harassment. He's already gotten several thousand dollars from settlements and cost the defendents considerably more than that in legal fees. More details should be posted soon here, including court documents that tell why Google was added to the suit."
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Google sued as PetsWarehouse Lawsuit Continues.

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  • by Allaria (547479) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:43AM (#4380762) Journal
    The blinking links alone tell me that he's a complete idiot.

    I bet he was teased in high school and wants to get back at all the bullies.

    *sigh*
    • by Raskolnk (26414) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:03PM (#4380961)
      Mr. Novak,

      This letter is to inform you of a class action lawsuit filed against Pets Warehouse ("the Company") on behalf of the rest of the world ("Everybody").

      Everybody asserts that the Company has caused irreversible harm and mental anguish by the use of excessive blink tags and animated gifs on the Company's website. Everybody hereby claims the right to compensation for the aforementioned ailments caused by the Company's lack of taste.

      Regards,
      Everybody
    • Hey, that's a libelous insult to all of us who were teased in high school, which I think is a majority of the /. population!
  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:44AM (#4380768) Homepage Journal
    Remember, he's in the business of suing people, so be sure not to accuse the no-good, rat-bastard, slimy, underhanded, weaseling, gutless scumbag of doing anything improper.

    • by superid (46543) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:58AM (#4380921) Homepage
      PetsWarehouse [petswarehouse.com] is currently crawling, as expected. Has anyone ever sued for being slashdotted?

      "slashdottin my site? thats a paddle'in" (jasper)

    • I would like to add that in my opnion Novak and his pet store both could suck the chrome off a trailer hitch. That from what I have heard he is the devil incarnate and that he SUCKS SUCKS SUCKS.

      Can I be addedd now? I have a *very* rich friend who would love to bankroll a fight against this twat.
    • by DABANSHEE (154661) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:12PM (#4381032)
      Remember it doesn't pay to sue people on welfare.

      1, many don't respond to non-personal mail.

      2, half of them pretend their just some flatmate if a stranger such as a bailife or summons server knocks on the door. It becomes habit through years of not paying traffic fines & getting cought on the train without a ticket.

      3, they've got bugger all assets, at most maybe a old unregisted car that's either seeing out its days as a shed in the front yard, or, but for a old coat hanger & some bog, is due to see out its days as a shed in the front yard.

      4, you can't garnish their incomes.

      I know, I've been sued 3 times, & in each case they just gave up.

    • by Tackhead (54550) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:38PM (#4381243)
      > Remember, he's in the business of suing people, so be sure not to accuse the no-good, rat-bastard, slimy, underhanded, weaseling, gutless scumbag of doing anything improper.

      Are you implying that you believe Mr. Novak of Petswarehouse.com is a no-good, rat-bastard, slimy, underhanded, weaseling gutless scumbag?

      I would advise you to be more cautious in the future. The NGRBSUWGSADL - No-Good Rat Bastard Slimy Underhanded Weaseling Gutless Scumbag Anti-Defamation League - might sue you for libel.

  • This is good news. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DrEldarion (114072) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:45AM (#4380779)
    Now he's suing people that can actually afford to fight back. I hope he gets the pants beaten off of him by Google's lawyers.

    -- Dr. Eldarion --
  • by qurob (543434) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:45AM (#4380780) Homepage

    I'm all googled-out right now.

    There was a guy who posting anti-VW comments on a automotive enthusiast message board...and the judge threw it out because it was merely opinion and not fact.

    Link?
    • by _xeno_ (155264) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:55AM (#4380889) Homepage Journal
      What does that have to do with this?

      Keep in mind that usually these lawsuits are not intended to attempt to actually be won in a court of law, they are intended to run the defendant out of resources until they are forced to accept to the terms of the plaintiff just to get themselves out of court. It's becoming more and more common, and is actually a fairly effective way to skirt around the First Amendment, unfortunately.

      Several states are now passing laws to make such suits illegal, but for the time being, watch what you say online. And be vague enough so as not to actually be accusing anyone of doing anything :) !

    • by Zathrus (232140) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:02PM (#4380955) Homepage
      The dealer in question is Jim Ellis Volkswagon in Atlanta, GA. Until recently Jim Ellis dealerships had a monopoly on VW and Audi sales in the Atlanta area. The post that started it all can be found here [vwvortex.com].

      The case got so much attention all over the world that the dealership dropped the case - it was never tried in court (except the court of public opinion, which was pretty damning). Whether or not the dealership had a leg to stand on is questionable - there may have been slander in the thread, but the original poster may not have been the one to do it.

      Mr. Novak has probably bitten off more than he can chew, at least if Google actually goes to court and doesn't just yank the references like they did with Scientology and Operation Clambake [xenu.net].

      I've never dealt with Mr. Novak's business, and I know I certainly would not in the future given his legal tactics. I have dealt with Jim Ellis though, and will not in the future because of my experiences with them.
  • by phorm (591458) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:46AM (#4380793) Journal
    If not, maybe next week they will be

    Nothing is more idiotic than a legal system that allows one person to abridge the security and personal freedom of another, but exercising their own right to continually sue or press frivolous charges against individuals/organizations that cross their path.

    We NEED a law to deal with idiotic lawsuits. That is to say, one that carries penalties for those use lawsuits as a continual source of revenue. I think I read earlier that there are some laws regarding individuals that are sue happy, why not make it federal (and get the Canadian government to apply one as well, although Canada seems less lawsuit-crazy than the US).

    Lawyers: Who do you want to sue today? - phorm
    • We NEED a law to deal with idiotic lawsuits. That is to say, one that carries penalties for those use lawsuits as a continual source of revenue.

      The RIAA would not like that.
    • by mekkab (133181) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:08PM (#4381002) Homepage Journal
      IANALBMWISTBO, (I am not a lawyer, but my wife is studying to be one: Why does this deserve an acronym? becuase this makes me a VERY dangerous person to have a conversation about: I know just enough legal terms to sound like a pro to the unwashed masses, and to sound like a total moron to the bar association)

      But here goes: SUMMARY JUDGEMENT.
      You can file suits till the cows come home... BUT WTF?! Summons, subpoena, discovery, WITH NO PRIMA FACIA CASE!

      How is he gonna establish jurisdiction?! Suing google?
      Whatever-
      SECTION 11 of fed civil procedure for FRADULENTLY suing for defamation... and judges can fine people for filing frivilous suits!

      Challenge this biatch and get him slapped the fuck down.

  • by barberio (42711) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:48AM (#4380819) Homepage
    One day, a man was hit by a bicycle. The man got so angry, he demanded the cyclist pay him five dollars. And the cyclist did so because he was too busy to argue.

    Then the man thought 'Maybe I should throw myself in from of another bicycle to get five dollars'. And so he did.

    Five bicycles later, he thinks 'If I get five dollars from bicycles, I can get twenty from cars'. And he threw himself into on comming trafic.

    And was squashed by a pickup truck.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:48AM (#4380825)
    well i got on there and bought a 50 pound bag of "OL' ROY" dog food for my german shepherd general rommel. well, it took like EIGHT MONTHS for it to even get there. so when it did, general rommel was pretty damn hungry. so I opened up the bag of "OL' ROY" and poured a bowl and gave it to him. he ate it. AND THEN I NOTICED that it was not dog food in there, but rat poison! PET WAREHOUSE is shipping RAT POISON in their pet food! general rommel promptly keeled over and croaked.

    i sent a mail to mr. novak and he told me to go eff myself with a shovel. now THAT is what i call customer service. anyway, i've got a new dog now, I called her eva braun, and i will NOT be ordering any more "OL' ROY" from PET WAREHOUSE

    your buddy
    --gbd
  • by LordYUK (552359) <jeffwright821@ER ... m minus math_god> on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:53AM (#4380867)
    "Dear judge-

    Some mean person made very nasty remarks about my crappy online store. Since we now live in a world where every single whining crybaby threatens to sue somebody over the most trivial of things, I feel I want to sue a person who made some comments on their website. Sure, my knowledge of the legal system is little to none, but I really want to sue these guys because they are so mean! I have obviously never done any research on libel, or I would've learned the following information:

    Ideas and opinions, whether true of false, cannot constitutionally be subject to libel claims.

    However, my lawyer, who also works the night shift at the local Dairy Queen, says I can sue for MILLIONS of dollars! I tend to believe him, because I once saw him wear an expensive suit and I think that makes him smart.

    Sincerely,

    Mr Novak"

  • by eyefish (324893) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:54AM (#4380878)
    On the surface, this seems to me like a stupid lawsuit that cannot hold in court, since it is clearly trying to violate the consitutional right of free speech (i.e.: "you cannot say I suck, I'll sue you").

    However, *maybe* (and I repeat, just maybe), if beyond any reasonable doubt the guy can prove that the people who made the first comments made them with the premeditated malicious intention of bringing down his business, then that's another matter. However that still does not give him the right to sue everyone else (if that holds in court, Microsoft could be suing the slashdot parent company on the basis that they're hosting anti-microsoft discussions by some users).

    In the end, my guess is that the case can not hold in the supreme court, if it ever gets there. if he wins a few cases it's probably because he's got tons of money to spend on lawyers or just some very good lawyers, or everyone else's lawyers suck.
    • However, *maybe* (and I repeat, just maybe), if beyond any reasonable doubt the guy can prove that the people who made the first comments made them with the premeditated malicious intention of bringing down his business, then that's another matter.

      Uhh, no. That's word-of-mouth. Right now there is a guy standing in front of the car dealership at the corner of Steven's Creek and Lawrence. He's got a sign that says "don't buy cars here." He is actively and deliberately attempting to put the car dealership out of business. He has made no false statements. The car dealership can do nothing about this (aside from getting him moved off their property, so he's out on the sidewalk). "Intent to damage" is not only legal in the USA, it's protected speech. Perhaps you're confusing it with libel or slander?

  • by vondo (303621) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:54AM (#4380879)
    I was pretty confused reading the original comment.

    The comments are about "Pet Warehouse", which is here [petwarehouse.com] while the link is for Pets Warehouse.

    What happened, according to the Salon article, linked in the original /. article is that the "s" was left off.

    More understandable since Pet Warehouse is a reputable outfit predating the dotcom boom. I've dealt with them lots of times.

  • by GutterBunny (153341) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:57AM (#4380907) Journal
    ...is a good offense.

    Perhaps a good round of public boycott will enough to deter Mr. Novak from suing anyone who criticizes his store. Start by emailing all your pet-owning friends and informing them of what has happened. Ask them to stop purchasing from Petswearhouse until this kind of senseless lawsuit'ing has stopped... Also perhaps a /.'er can provide a simpler summary on his/her his web page for reference. In addition to the defense fund's site. We also may wish to provide links to the mailing list comments that started this.

    Basically give people information to make an informed decision.
    • by Soko (17987) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:47PM (#4381354) Homepage
      In the same vein, I'm tempted to do something like this...

      Dear PetsWarehouseSupplier Inc.:

      Hello. I would like to tell you that one of your dealers, namely PetsWarehouse.com, is costing you business.

      Mr. Novak, the proprieter of said business, is in my humble opinion more about litigation against paying customers than about providing a proper venue for distributing your fine products to the public. Customers who complained publicly to others when they received poor customer service from his web based business, are being sued for $15,000,000.

      Unfortunately for you, your product is prominetely displayed on the homepage of PetsWarehouse.com. As such, I conclude that you are sympathetic to Mr. Novaks lawsuits, which in my opinion are frivilous and only intended to stifle free speech and the exchange of opinions. I refuse to support any business which holds this view, so I will, in the future, refrain from purchasing any product from you, your subsidiaries or any other company affiliated with your products.

      Thank you for your time,

      Signed

      A Former Potential Customer.

      About the same as you suggest, just approaching the problem from the other end.

      Soko
      • by "Zow" (6449)

        I don't think that's very effective. Here's why:

        1. You were only a "Potential Customer" to begin with. They aren't loosing established business.
        2. You have flat out stated that you are not going to buy their product. They've lost you as a (potential) customer and nothing they do now is going to change that.
        3. The pet supply market (at least for cats, which is where a good chunk of my income goes :-) consists of a couple huge companies like Iams and Science Diet (both of which I believe are owned by even larger conglomerates), and a lot of tiny, botique-type brands. The big guys aren't going to care much what you think about one lone distibuter who accounts for .001% of their sales, and the small guys are fighting to sell where ever they can, so they don't want to cut off what is probably a significant revinue source.
        4. Likewise, the companies probably have very little say in what goes on the frontpage of this minor Internet merchant. I imagine the conglomerants could demand to be on the frontpage if they so desired, but it's probably not worth their time.
        5. These companies have much more important ethical issues to deal with right now, like if they should continue to supply retailers that are facing charges of animal abuse, not just some clown who's gone sue-happy.

        -"Zow"

    • Even better would be to link to his competitors in your email.

      That way you won't accidentally help him by giving him free publicity.

      Also, make sure that you don't *actually* commit libel. State only facts that you know to be true. That's a higher standard than defamation or libel requires, but he could sue you anyway. You don't have to be correct in order to sue. And IANAL.
  • by WIAKywbfatw (307557) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:57AM (#4380909) Journal
    In such a litigious society, where lawyers chase after every dollar they can, and where "greed is good" is a mantra, is anyone truly surprised at this?

    It's a sad reflection of American society that it has turned into a victim culture where nobody is ever to blame for their own shortcomings but is instead a victim of the malignant actions of anyone or everyone else.

    It's an easy out - why bother seriously examining where your business plan was flawed or where your process broke down when you can simply point the finger at someone else and say "I would have succeeded if it wasn't for you".

    Part of the problem is that there is little to discourage malicious and/or spurious litigation. Some sort of penalty for repeatedly taking out this sort of action would be helpful but it's hard to imagine that happening any time soon.

    The fact is that many companies will rather settle lawsuits like these ones before they get to court even if they are without merit. The rationale behind this is ironic - lawsuits (even ridiculous ones) bring down share prices, and which "greed is good" CEO is going to let that happen for the sake of a few thousand dollars?
    • by pjrc (134994) <paul@pjrc.com> on Thursday October 03, 2002 @02:14PM (#4382172) Homepage Journal
      In such a litigious society, where lawyers chase after every dollar they can...

      That's rather unfair, as Robert Novak is neither a lawyer or a reasonable sample of the society at large.

      Quoting from this Long Island Business News article [libn.com]:

      The old saw says that an attorney who represents himself has a fool for a lawyer. Whoever made that up didn't envisage Novak, who is serving as his own lawyer. Novak doesn't have a law degree, but he is an old hand at legal wranglings. Talk to him and he cites case law, chapter and verse.

      "It's my hobby," he said.

      Novak was able to consolidate the case in federal court. "It's only five miles for me," he said. "All these people have to come here at their own expense."

      If all the info on the net is true (virtually all is posted by defendants), we can only hope the defendants ask the court to fine him, or some of them file an anti-slapp suit against him.

      But that won't happen without donations to the defense fund, or someone with deep pockets and an interest in free speech on the internet (google??) gets involved and makes an example of Robert Novak.

  • by N8F8 (4562) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:59AM (#4380932)
    Wonderfull name. Brings to mind a large building stuffed with pets from top to bottom. Hi-Lo's and Forklifts shuffling boxes of animals about. Over in the far rear corner is the "Scratch and Dent" bin full of great bargains.
  • Mistakes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by j_kenpo (571930) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:00PM (#4380942)
    Well the first mistakes were the people who settled. If the guy is representing himself, one good lawyer could easily outwit him in court (or maybe Im giving lawyers too much credit..). The guy is a public business, he is not immune from slander. What hes doing is the exact thing that pisses me off the most about things like the RIAA and BestBuys/Fry store policies, ect. Its companies telling us what we can and cannot do, no longer is the customer always right. Instead, we the consumers, are seen as stupid people who have to be put in our place by some snot nosed store clerk or some half assed executive hiding behind "company policy". BS... its on paper, paper does not bind us physically. This is exactly what this guy is trying to pull. he is trying to take away a consumers right to free speech. They shouldnt settle, they should just tell him to kiss their ass, and until the day that he can physically force them to not advertise the fact that a vendor did not come through with a promised transaction, he can take his lawsuit papers and shove them up his a$$. Second, they should have filed a complaint the Chamber of Commerce and the Better Business Bureua, thus having a registered and documented complaint against the company, then his lawsuit would have no grounds. Of course... maybe I should keep quite, he might try and sue me... oh no....
  • by Alizarin Erythrosin (457981) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:01PM (#4380945)
    New to Google! It's Google Pet Warehouse! Now you can search and purchase all your pet needs right from your favorite search engine!

    Want to know how we did it? Sure, we'll tell you! Some moron sued us and we won! We got his pet store and now it makes us a mint!
  • by SirSlud (67381) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:04PM (#4380973) Homepage
    here [petswarehousesucks.com] :)
  • by FyRE666 (263011) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:09PM (#4381008) Homepage
    Well his site's slowing down a bit now. All it should take would be most of us to keep hitting reload and his bandwidth charges should help suck up some of his "victory" money ;-)

    Let's hope that no spammers pick up on his email address or mailing details:

    Robert Novak - bob@petswarehouse.com
    Pets Warehouse
    1550 Sunrise Hwy
    Copiague, ny 11726
    US
    Phone - 631-789-5400
    Fax - 631.789.9340


    Honestly though, how can a piece of sh*t like this guy keep taking up court time with these suits? Espscially with news sites that are merely reporting the proceedings of cases? It's ridiculous - I'm sure the RIAA are already sending him job application forms so he help them in their quest to crack down on freedom and the causes of freedom!
  • by Cervantes (612861) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:09PM (#4381010) Journal
    You know, I was going to post something informative or maybe even (+3 Insightful), but this nausious feeling just won't go away. I can understand suing someone for libel ... even if I do think it's just customers sharing their experiences. Considering the net-based nature of his business, people posting in online forums about how bad he is would strike me the same as people marching outside the front door of the local pet store carrying signs and shouting slogans. But to then start suing the people who carried news of the origional lawsuit? Or the ones who carried the ad banners for the legal defense fund? What's next, sue the WayBack machine? Sheesh... sounds like someone isn't selling enough Kibbles n' Bits to pay the bills...

    I hope the good folks at Google countersue him, and I also hope that this spurs all the people who've had bad experiences with this place to file a group or class-action lawsuit, and I hope it hurts him good.

    Does anyone know the results of the origional lawsuits? (not including the &*%(#&'s who settled)

    And does anyone have the links to the legal defense fund, and any of the BB's that posted the comments? They deserve links on my homepage (made and hosted in Canada, where we don't take this kinda crap, eh?)

    Now, I'm going to write the nice man an email explaining why I'll be boycotting his business, and why I'll be encouraging others to as well. Shouldn't you, too? If you have enough time to post on /., then you have enough time to do this as well.

    (Sig 0.5b)
    I'll defend your right to spew fruitless venom and baseless idiocy with my dying breath, just as you must defend my right to call you an asshole.
  • by antis0c (133550) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:10PM (#4381018)
    Being involved in the Aquaria community for years, I've heard essentially that this is one of those guys that liked to sue people (obviously). But he's one of those guys if you give him any critism he thinks its slander or liable, and sues. Apparently he is entirely unaware of freedom of speech and the difference between critism and slander. If he provides bad service, and people tell about it, thats critism. If he provides excellent service, and people lie to say he provided poor service, thats slander. I sure hope some of these people counter-sue, and get lawyers to do it.

    He's just milking settlements, its digusting.
  • by mojotek (453004) <mojotek@@@gmail...com> on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:12PM (#4381039) Homepage Journal
    Hopefully this won't have a negative affect on another online Pet store: Drs. Foster and Smith's Pet Warehouse [petwarehouse.com]. Their website being "www.petwarehouse.com" and this buffoon's being "www.petswarehouse.com".

    In my experience, they are a very reliable source for all kinds of supplies, and it would be a shame for people to associate their site with this litigation crazy moron.
  • by Gefiltefish11 (611646) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:15PM (#4381057)

    This is an interesting case and I hope that the courts will take action to address these abusive legal actions. There are actually mechanisms in the law to accomplish this, ranging from a court order barring a litigant from filing further motions or actions on a certain issue to a court declaration that a litigant is characteristically abusive (I can't recall the term for this, but it is assuredly legal latinate). The latter requires the censured litigant to gain court approval before filing any further actions.

    Check out the following case; it's very interesting.

    http://www.law.fsu.edu/library/flsupct/sc94012/op- sc93573.pdf [fsu.edu]

  • by FyRE666 (263011) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:23PM (#4381126) Homepage
    What a dope:-

    login: test
    password: test

    Feel free to post your "comments" without having to give personal details to register!!!
  • by sheetsda (230887) <doug DOT sheets AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:32PM (#4381189)
    Robert Novak is representing himself in this lawsuit, and thus it is effectively costing him nothing to persue this campaign of harassmentIANAL, so correct me if I'm wrong, but if his lawsuits are found frivolous doesn't he have to pay the legal bills of the people he's suing? If thats the case it seems all he's doing is committing financial suicide. Large companys like Google tend to have lawyers by the boatload and given that he's representing himself it's a pretty good bet that no lawyer will touch the case (read: he's got nothing on them).
  • by Simon Brooke (45012) <stillyet@googlemail.com> on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:36PM (#4381231) Homepage Journal
    that there's currently a user contributed story [infopop.cc] entitled 'Robert Novak ate my baby!'. No, I didn't put it there. But I can't help wondering if he will now have to sue himself, seeing his own site is carrying defamatory remarks about him.

    Life is tough when you're a litigious numpty.

  • by night_flyer (453866) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:39PM (#4381253) Homepage
    PetsWarehouse BBB Rating
    The Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan New York, Inc. has provided an unsatisfactory rating, the Bureau's lowest, for PetsWarehouse. The BBB site states:

    "This firm operates an affiliated business on the internet offering products through its Copaigue location. This firm has received 21 complaints in the last 36 months, of which 11 of those 21 complaints were filed in the last 12 months. Complaints to the Bureau have alleged: 1) nondelivery of ordered merchandise and 2) credit or billing problems. This firm has a pattern of not responding to complaints to its attention by the Bureau."

  • by Deagol (323173) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:39PM (#4381260) Homepage
    I remember about 10 years ago, I was watching some daily rag show (Entertainment Tonight, or maybe Hard Copy). Anyway, there was some story about some bimbo-former-housewife-turned-amature-litigator. She made her living my suing freakin' everybody around her and getting them to settle. She sued a family because the kids (a few doors down) were playing basketball in the driveway too loud, and it distressed her. I remember the poor father (paraphrased), "I hate the idea of settling, but we just can't afford a lawyer..."

    If some wench with a few hours' paralegal experience can cause problems, why can't the average Joe use the same technique in defense?

    In spite of the saying "a man representing himself has a fool for a client", I assume a person with nothing to loose should be able to defend himself.

    Take me, for example. I make a modest salary, have a home, wife/kids, car etc. I'd be hard pressed to come up with more than a grand or two to retain a lawyer if I were ever sued. For a civil suit like this, what could I really loose? I can't fathom a judge forcing a family out on the street, or taking their only means of transport. Can a judgement that would make a family destitute really be made against them? (Cite/link example, if there are, please.)

    Obviously, IANAL. I'm just curious. Is the only option for us middle class folk to either settle for what we can afford or start a defense fund? I can't accept that -- it says that society sucks far more than I currently believe.

    Would some lawyer (or someone who's gone the pro se route) speak up. An online resource (one really geard towards pro se defense) would be awesome.

  • /. effect. (Score:5, Funny)

    by pclminion (145572) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:52PM (#4381408)
    Damn you Slashdotters! I've set my Opera to auto-reload petswarehouse.com every minute, because I'm so interested in seeing Novak's updates on his pending litigation.

    But you /. freakos are maxing out his bandwidth, apparently. Don't any of you DARE set auto-reload on that site! That's MY strategy.

    This reverse-psychology was brought to you by...

  • by mo (2873) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @01:04PM (#4381528)
    In investigating the petswarehouse website I discovered this link [petswarehouse.com] which lists the 20th page of products that have the letter 'a' in the name.

    Now, don't everybody hit that up a lot because selecting everything with 'a' from their database, and then jumping to the 20th page is a lot of work and it would cause unneeded strain on their website.

    However, it's very useful if you are interested in viewing the depth of the petswarehouse catalog.
  • by phil reed (626) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @01:18PM (#4381652) Homepage
    Hey, somebody put the Scientology OT3 documents up on the PetsWarehouse message board. Maybe we can get those two lovable organizations to turn on each other.
  • Idiot loser (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dh003i (203189) <dh003i@@@gmail...com> on Thursday October 03, 2002 @01:55PM (#4382003) Homepage Journal
    This guy is obviously an idiot and loser who doesn't know wtf he's doing.

    You can't sue people for stating their opinion, or even for criticizing you or your services harshely or unfairly.

    You can only sue people for defamation if they knowingly state a stark falsity about you or your company. Saying the service sucks -- which it probably does -- is a matter of opinion, not a factual statement.

    If someone said that something as a matter of fact about him or his company that he can prove is false, that may be grounds for a defamation lawsuite. However, unless he can show that such statement caused him a loss of business, he has little or no grounds for any punative damages.

    The fact that this guy seems to be making his living by suing people without grounds and hoping they settle seems statement enough about the quality of his services.
  • by tlambert (566799) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @02:51PM (#4382498)
    Is it really "winning", when Google removes all links to your web site?

    I guess you could always live with print advertising... that really works well on the Internet, doesn't it?

    Clue: URLs in a print advertisements aren't "clickable"...

    -- Terry
  • by BrianH (13460) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @03:17PM (#4382662)
    As much as I despise what Mr. Novak did with the whole fish complaint thing, a quick read of the ACTUAL LAWSUIT shows that this new suit has NOTHING to do with free speech or negative comments from unhappy customers. This is a completely new and UNRELATED lawsuit, that just happens to be from the same guy. Petswarehouse.Com is suing Google, and other search engines and petstores because they are using the Petswarehouse.com trademark to steal customers. Google is included in the suit because they are allowing paid placement customers (competing petstores) to use the PetsWarehouse.Com trademark as a keyword to display their ads. The competing petsores themselves are alleged to have put the petswarehouse.com trademark inside their meta-tags to attract customers. The suit also alleges that PetsWarehouse complained about the trademark infringement to Google, but that Google refused to abide by their own policy and remove the infringing material.

    I hate to say it, but Mr. Novak may actually have a valid trademark suit here!
    • by Slothrup (73029) <curt@ h a g e n l o c h e r.org> on Thursday October 03, 2002 @05:12PM (#4383563)
      You've posted this twice now, BrianH. Is Novak paying you? Or maybe you are Novak?

      If you really read the lawsuit, you'd see that he's suing because the search terms "pets warehouse" (two words) are bringing up the competing sites. This is as much copyright infringement as the dictionary, which also contains the word "pets" and the word "warehouse". The sites in question have not put the word "petswarehouse" or "petswarehouse.com" in their metatags -- they've put "pets" and "warehouse".

  • Important links. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gendou (234091) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @04:34PM (#4383292) Homepage
    Main news/defense fund, full dockets [petsforum.com]

    Other defense fund page [thedefensefund.org]

    Defense Fund merchandise [cafepress.com]

    Discussion forum for the lawsuit [compuserve.com]

    PetsWarehouseSucks.com [petswarehousesucks.com] (Novak bought up the .net and .org versions of this domain, by the way)

    Aquatic Plants digest [actwin.com]

    Google search with many relevant results [google.com]

    Rec.Aquaria.Freshwater.Plants [google.com]

    Between all those pages, you should be able to find plenty of links to archives of the messages in question, full court documents, links to news coverage of the story, etc. etc. etc. If you have any interest in aquatic plants or planted aquariums, check the link to the Aquatic Plants mailing list, where all this began. You'll find all the original posts, plus some early discussion of the lawsuit. Also, you can find plenty of stuff in the archive of rec.aquaria.freshwater.plants, including the rantings and ravings of Mr. Novak himself, as well as posts from a few people who support him and happen to have EXACTLY the same spelling and grammer that he does...

    There's all kinds of fun things to discover about this case. For example, the NY Better Business Bureau gave PetsWarehouse its worst possible rating for its business practices. Mr. Novak claims that the BBB is *actually* talking about the retail store, not the website, and as a result, he's threatened to actually SUE the Better Business Bureau.

    Mr. Novak is on very shaky legal ground. He's been reprimanded by judges (since he's filed three seperate lawsuits and several ammendments, there are a lot of judges involved) for not having a clue what he's doing. He told a magazine that he considers suing people to be "his hobby", and a profitable one, because he lives right down the street from the courthouse and most people can't afford to travel to his venue to fight the lawsuits. When Slashdot first covered the lawsuit in April, someone posted a comment sayign that they new Mr. Novak, and he told the poster that he has a lawyer in the family who gives him advice on filing baseless lawsuits for extra income.

    Also, one of Mr. Novak's big claims in this lawsuit is "trademark infringement" (since we ALL know that saying "I don't like XYZ" is a violation of XYZ's trademark, right??), however, there's some question of whether he owns the trademark at all. He used Pets Warehouse as a "common law" trademark (IANAL, but I think that means he never actually filed the trademark, he just started using it and that entitles him to some legal protection), however, when he filed bankruptcy in the 90's, he didn't list any intellectual property that he wanted to keep on his bankruptcy application, thus it's entirely likely that he lost any trademark he might have had on the name during the bankruptcy.

    He also refuses to actually serve papers against any of the defendents who live in California, because California has a strong SLAPP law that would bite him in the ass he if tried to actually bring any California residents into the lawsuit.

    I'm not the only one who thinks all this is very, very crazy.
    • And more!! (Score:3, Informative)

      by Gendou (234091)
      His message board [infopop.cc]. Last I checked, the board was moderated and all messages had to be pre-approved by a moderator, but it looks like one fellow has found his way around that. Congrats, Mr. Lignatron.

      Don't forget to check out his message board's terms of use [infopop.cc]. Oddly enough, you're not allowed to mention the fact that the owner of the company sues his customers (and everyone else, for that matter). Any mention of the lawsuit that makes it onto his board is deleted very quickly. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try, though. Even if the message gets stuck in an approval queue and never get posted by a moderator, as seems to be the general case, one of his moderators will still have to take the time to delete it. And I get the feeling that his moderators might not even know about the lawsuit, or else they won't associate with him.

      One piece of advice to those attacking his message board: if the goal is to warn his customers about what his company is up to, linking to Petsforum [petsforum.com], TheDefenseFund [thedefensefund.org], or this Slashdot story would be MUCH more effective than linking to goatse.cx [petswarehouse.com]. Our goal is to bring his behavior into public light, not to gross people out. That's what we have Slashdot for. I know old habits die hard, but this is a chance for us to put our trolling/crapflooding skills to good use, and work for a higher goal.

      It's funny how after the lawsuit business started, Bob [mailto] Novak [mailto] changed the name of his message board to "The Civilized Pet Forum." Yeah, right.

      Then there are the requistite requisite [mailto] mailto [mailto] links [mailto]. What good would this post be without the requisite [mailto] mailto [mailto] links [mailto]? Keep these requisite [mailto] mailto [mailto] links [mailto] in mind for future use. These requisite [mailto] mailto [mailto] links [mailto] make the world go round!

      Archived mirror of PetsWarehouse page [archive.org].

      Archived company info [archive.org].

      Archived map to store [archive.org]

      Domain registration info [betterwhois.com]

      GNU Wget [wget.org] - a website downloading tool. Useful for accessing sites that are Slashdotted, by hitting the site over, and over, and over, and over, and over...

      Netcraft Info for Petswarehouse [netcraft.com]
  • ack! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Polo (30659) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @05:06PM (#4383516) Homepage
    Just reading about this is causing me much Mental Anguish. Can I sue?

  • by man_ls (248470) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @05:18PM (#4383596)
    An individual who was responsible for the creation of the Comcast consumer advocacy catagory on Yahoo! was successful in finally getting Comcast to drop their cable fraud lawsuit when he threatened to countersue for malicious prosecution.

    This individual *clearly* is in it for the money, and nothing else. Aside from a possible slander charge against the original poster, if what was said was in fact false; Google, nor any other news site, has any business being named in the law suit.

    Something to the effect of "common carrier" status should apply to these sites. Unless they posted their own commentary that was specifically derrogatory to the owner of that web site, they have no grounds for the law suit; and even if commentary was posted, by the time the lawsuit is reaching national coverage for it's stupidity, you've lost any right to complain about it.

    Google, being the group with the greatest amount of cash, should counter-sue the individual in question for being an asshat and attempting to exploit the system. If I recall correctly (IANAL), exploting the courts for personal gain is CONTEMPT and you go to jail for that, instantly.

    My $0.02.
  • by pclminion (145572) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @08:11PM (#4384435)
    The site's been down since about 10 AM my time, give or take.

    Do you think this is due to the /. effect, or is it because of the UUNET/WorldCom debacle?

    At any rate, I wonder how much money it just cost him to have his site unreachable for basically an entire business day...

"In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current." -- Thomas Jefferson

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