Alleged online troll a no-show for Aspen court hearing
While an Aspen law firm believes it has identified the poster of anonymous and false comments about a downtown pet store, it can’t seem to track him down.
A case management conference in the lawsuit pitting C.B. Paws against Ivan Lustig was held Friday, but Lustig was a no-show while the litigating attorneys from Garfield & Hecht PC appeared by telephone.
“To date, Mr. Lustig has not replied to our telephone calls and not responded to our emails,” David Lenyo, one of the lawyers representing plaintiff C.B. Paws, told Pitkin County District Judge Chris Seldin.
The court also attempted to reach Lustig by phone for the purposes of him attending the hearing but he did not respond, Seldin said.
The hearing came after C.B. Paws sued “John Doe” in March 2018, with the suit’s chief goal to stop the actions of what appeared to be an online troll who chided the business, using multiple online profiles, on the Google and Yelp review sites. The reviews, the suit said, ripped C.B. Paws about its return policy and prices, and included false statements about the shop’s “smells of dog urine, feces and drool.” In turn, C.B. Paws’ reputation was tarnished, the suit claims.
In January, C.B. Paws amended its complaint to identify Lustig, a former employee of C.B. Paws who was fired in November 2017 for his behavior toward a customer, as the poster.
“Lustig made the false statements and negative reviews under circumstances of fraud, malice and/or willful and wanton conduct,” says the suit, which is seeking an injunction to stop Lustig from trolling C.B. Paws on the internet.
Lustig could not be reached for comment Friday. During the hearing, Lenyo said he believed that Lustig might have moved out of Colorado. Lustig does not have an attorney in the case and he has denied the allegations against him.
In a hand-written court filing dated April 8 and entered into the record Tuesday, Lustig listed 403 Park Ave. in Aspen as his address. His filing said he doesn’t have the resources to hire an attorney and he has been unable to obtain pro bono counsel.
“This case is of importance, as it relates to the plaintiffs (word illegible) to suspend constitutionally protected speech based on flaws and evidence void of credibility,” Lustig wrote.
Seldin, meanwhile, instructed the plaintiff to prepare a proposed order, which would require the judge’s signature, telling Lustig to comply with the court’s order to confer with attorneys about the status of the case. Seldin said he was giving Lustig some slack because he doesn’t have an attorney. However, the judge noted Lustig must appear in person at a hearing scheduled May 28. If Lustig no longer lives in the Roaring Fork Valley, Lustig will be required to appear at the hearing by phone, Seldin said.
If he fails to do so, Lustig faces court sanctions and a possible default judgment, Seldin said.
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