Cyber Tech Litigation Report

Volume 2, Issue #4
June 2000

Miami Judge Orders
AOL, Yahoo To Identify
Defamation Defendants

MIAMI - A Florida state court judge on May 25 ordered American Online and Yahoo to identify a user named as a “John Doe” defendant in a Fort Lauderdale businessman’s defamation lawsuit (J. Erik Hvide v. “John Does 1-8,” et al., No. 99-22831-CA01, Fla. Cir., Miami-Dade Co.). The rulings by Miami-Dade County Circuit Court Judge Eleanor Schockett came on motions by J. Erik Hvide, former chairman of Hvide Marine, a maritime transportation company, who sued over the content of messages on AOL and Yahoo traced to an AOL subscriber. Judge Schockett rejected privacy arguments by the anonymous defendant, finding that Hvide has a right to identify and depose the defendant. Miami Herald reporter Chris Gaither, who was in the courtroom during the hearing, quoted Judge Schockett as saying that “anonymity encourages irresponsibility.” Gaither said the judge told counsel that Hvide’s right to confront the unidentified message-poster outweighs the “John Doe” defendant’s right to anonymity. The judge has stayed her orders until June 30 to give the defendant time to appeal. Hvide is represented by Bruce D. Fischman of Fischman, Harvey & Dutton in Miami. Christopher K. Leigh of English, McCaughan & O’Bryan in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., represents defendant “Doe.”