Cheryl Sanders’ didn’t want a cookie-cutter wig. Oh no, no! She wanted a custom-made coif. So when a non-bespoke hairpiece showed up at her house, Sanders told FedEx to return the wig to sender. FedEx tried, but the sender refused it.
If this were a Friday night real-life crime show, a dapper reporter would saunter onto the screen right about now and say something like: “And though nobody could have known, the refusal of the wig launched one of the most contentious business defamation lawsuits in recent memory.”
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Now, of course this is not the most contentious business defamation lawsuit in recent memory (they always exaggerate on real-life crime shows!). It is, however, a classic case of a merchant v. customer disagreement that devolves into an online pissing match, which ultimately crosses the libel line. And these days, with the rise of review sites, the tale is becoming oh too common.
How This Merchant v. Customer Business Defamation Lawsuit Began
Cheryl Sanders bought her mother, who was battling breast cancer, a wig from Constance Walsh’s shop, Wiggin Out. When Sanders inquired into the provenance of a particular hairpiece, Walsh allegedly assured Sanders it was a custom-made wig. Perhaps the older Mrs. Sanders saw someone rocking her exact doo at a retirement party, a confirmation or a bat mitzvah – but somehow the Sanders ladies discovered the wig was not custom and tried to refuse the hair by FedEx-ing it back to Walsh at Wiggin Out.
After an Initial Disagreement Over Quality and Cash, Parties End Up In Small Claims Court
To make a long story short, Walsh took Sanders to small claims court over non-payment for the wig. The wigmaker lost because the judge said Sanders’ attempt to return the item inoculated her from having to pay for the wig. (The assumption being that Wigging Out must’ve had a return policy that Sanders honored.)
Advantage, Customer. Cue the Anonymous RipOff Report Trash Talk
Two months after small claims court, Walsh logged on to RipOff Report and penned a rebuttal to Sanders’ criticism. Prefacing each paragraph with the word “Fact:”, Walsh delineated her version of the merchant v. customer saga. She also accused Sanders of fabricating the infamous FedEx return slip.
Several months after the RipOff Report posting, an anonymous person arrived on Yelp and accused Sanders of city corruption. You see, Sanders works for Anaheim’s public utilities department. And according to the unknown Yelper, Sanders had a hand in picking government contractors and accused her of abusing that responsibility. According to Sanders, though, her department has nothing to do with picking contractors.
Oh Yeah, Merchant!? Get Ready For An Online Business Defamation Lawsuit
Judging from available media reports, Cheryl Sanders must have suspected Walsh as the trash-talking Yelper, because Sanders sued Walsh for cyber libel after the posting. And apparently, Sanders did not mess around when it came to building her case, going so far as to hire a digital forensic specialist to investigate the source of the anonymous, libelous Yelp posting. Low and behold, the specialist came back with data, and it pointed to Walsh and Wigging out.
When confronted with the lawsuit and information, Walsh originally admitted to penning the rebuttal on RipOffReport.com, but denied authoring the anonymous posts on Yelp. After being confronted with Sanders’ expert’s information, however, Walsh finally fessed up and switched her defense from “it wasn’t me” to “everyone knows that reviews sites are people’s opinions, not fact, so my comments on Yelp weren’t defamatory.”
Judge Sides With Customer In This Business Defamation Lawsuit
Unfortunately for Walsh, the judge didn’t see things her way. Bluntly stated, he was not impressed with her arguments and ultimately reasoned that the wig peddler was hostile, malicious in her actions, and as such ordered her to shell out 24K to Sanders for attorney’s fees and other process-related costs.
Predictably, Walsh isn’t thrilled with the verdict. Like an Oz inmate stuck on innocence, when asked for reactions after the ruling, Walsh’s attorney insisted that this business defamation case would have turned out much differently if only he’d been allowed to enter evidence from the small claims case.
Speak With A Business Defamation Attorney Today
Are you embroiled in a contentious defamation lawsuit? Do you want to speak with an attorney well-versed in slander and libel law? If so, contact Kelly Warner Law. Our dedicated team of defamation attorneys has helped many clients through, what can be, an extremely frustrating time. We know how to make things right. Get in touch today.