Small Business Owner Sued for $20 Million Over a Blog Post
BY Mike Hofman
Leslie Richard, a North Carolina woman who runs an eco-friendly boutique, is reportedly being sued for $20 million by a TV production company based in Florida. Richard told the Mountain Xpress, an alternative paper in Asheville, North Carolina, first encountered the company, Vision Media Television, through a cold call. Richard alleges that Vision Media offered to film and interview her in her store, The Oko Box, for a short spot that would air on public television. Richard claims that, at first, Vision Media told her that the segment would be part of a documentary. Only later, she says, did representatives of the company mention that they intended to bill Richard for the production costs for the spot, which would exceed $20,000.
Richard said no way. She later posted a note on her blog warning other business owners of what she dubbed "a new scam." She also contacted the Better Business Bureau.
Now Vision Media is suing Richard for $20 million, the Mountain XPress reports: "On July 17, VMT filed a federal lawsuit against Richard for defamation, trade libel and 'tortious interference with business relationship," the paper reports. "The lawsuit claims that Richard's blog has lost the company $5 million in business and seeks another $15 million in punitive damages."
Richard—who says she cannot afford a lawyer—has filed response to the lawsuit on her own. "Who has $20 million?" she told the Mountain XPress. "At $20 million, legal-aid organizations generally won't help you. Since [the lawsuit is] filed in the Southern District of Florida, not a lot of lawyers here are licensed to practice there."
Have you ever gotten a call or done work with Vision Media? If so, what was your experience?
And have you ever written something for your blog that created an uproar? If so, what was it, and what happened? What would advise Richard to do next?
Last updated: Sep 3, 2008
MIKE HOFMAN was previously editor of Inc.com and a deputy editor at Inc. magazine, which he joined in 1996. The site was nominated for a National Magazine Award for Digital Media in 2010, and was named the best business website by Folio Magazine. In 2006, Hofman was part of a team of writers nominated for a Webby Award for best business blog. He lives in New York City. @mikehofman