Aspen pet shop’s attorneys say they have identified online commenter
August 7, 2018
Attorneys for an Aspen pet shop say they have dug up information identifying the individual who made what they claim were false and damaging online comments about the downtown retailer.
Documents introduced in July to the lawsuit by C.B. Paws against defendant "John Doe" claim that the remarks, made by various online aliases, are linked to the same IP address that originates from Aspen.
Aspen-based law firm Garfield & Hecht, which is representing C.B. Paws in the litigation, said in a court filing it plans to file an amended complaint naming "a specific defendant" and by doing so, will be able to serve the person with the updated lawsuit.
C.B. Paws, which has been located on the Hyman Avenue pedestrian mall for some 22 years, filed the suit in Pitkin County District Court in March, following a rash of what it called "false statements and negative reviews" on Google and Yelp. The reviews in question began in early November, the suit said.
Since the suit was filed, the questionable comments have ceased, C.B. Paws owner Steve Fante said Tuesday.
"I've had to spend a ton of money to get it to stop," he said, noting he plans to pursue legal fees from the alleged culprit.
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The suit also seeks a permanent injunction to stop the defendant from posting the comments that it says "are for the purpose of injuring C.B. Paws' reputation and goodwill."
David Lenyo, the lead attorney on the case, could not be reached Tuesday.
Last month's filing came after District Judge Chris Seldin granted the firm permission to subpoena Google and Yelp for "the limited purpose of ascertaining defendant's identity, contact information and internet protocol address," according to a March 22 motion.
Multiple exhibits from Garfield & Hecht's findings are included in the case; they are under seal as part of an agreement with Seldin.
Also subpoenaed was Cedar Networks, an internet provider for the Aspen area as well as for the IP address used by the poster, according to court papers. Additionally, Garfield & Hecht served a Colorado Open Records Request on the Pitkin County Library, which Cedar Networks said was the venue for the "IP address associated with all the purported accounts and associated logins," last month's court filing says.
The First Amendment will come into play in the C.B. Paws' lawsuit, based on previous court filings.
But for the time being, based on Judge Seldin's order allowing C.B. Paws to subpoena Google and Yelp, the case had been about gathering the poster's identity and verifying that a single individual made the comments.
"Only once the court has made that determination will it be in a position to weigh the First Amendment rights of anonymity at issue against plaintiff's right to proceed on the claims," the order said.