Katrina Victim Fights for Trial after $11.3 Million Default Judgment for Internet Blogging
FT. LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA (January 30, 2007) - Carey Bock from Mandeville, Louisiana was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. She evacuated her family to a Texas apartment only to find her father was suffering from heart failure. Bock lost most of her money. One of Bock’s sons was in Iraq and the other son was in Germany. It seemed life couldn’t get much worse—that is, until Bock received word that a judgment in Broward County, Florida had entered against her for $11.3 million in a case filed by Sue Scheff and Parents Universal Resource Experts (PURE). Bock did not receive court notices after May 31, 2006.
These facts are relevant according to Bock’s motion, filed in November 2006, to set aside the default. The Broward County judge will hear Bock’s motion against Scheff in early February 2007. A response by Scheff’s lawyer has not been filed with the court.
Bock called Scheff a “crook,” a “con artist,” and a “fraud” over the Internet. Scheff told U.S.A. Today, October 11, 2006, that Scheff wanted to “make a point,” in suing Bock, but some feel Scheff went too far. According to Bock, she has witnesses who will testify in support of her opinions of Scheff.
Scheff too was slapped with a lawsuit for similar Internet behavior directed at the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs (WWASP). Scheff, unlike Bock, had business insurance covering her attorney fees. Scheff used false names when she blogged WWASP over the Internet.
Scheff accused WWASP of fraud. Bock accused Scheff of fraud. The difference, some would argue, is only the ability to access lawyers.
As oddity would have it, Scheff had a prior business association with WWASP. According to a United States Court of Appeals opinion, Scheff had been paid a substantial sum whenever Scheff referred a child to a WWASP program. After a “falling out” with the marketing arm of WWASP, Scheff now competes with WWASP. Some operators of the children’s programs to which Scheff refers have been accused of multiple counts of child abuse.
The federal court held WWASP to be a limited purpose public figure and thus Scheff was not liable. Scheff too is a limited purpose public figure, according to Bock’s lawyer, because Scheff has cast herself in the public eye on the issues about which Bock has blogged.
The chilling of speech is at issue. The sheer cost of defense may be enough to silence advocates attempting to expose fraud and child abuse in referral businesses—complaints, that is, such as those against Scheff and her company PURE. ###
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