Online reviews have taken over the world of attorney retention, and for all but the largest firms, online reviews can be life or death. Cedeno v Pacelli
2019 NY Slip Op 32631(U) September 4, 2019 Supreme Court, New York County Docket Number: 452016/2018 Judge: Margaret A. Chan is a vivid example of a hideous situation and the aftermath.
“The Pacellis were going through a divorce in 2016. Atesta P retained Cedeno and his firm to represent her in the divorce proceedings. In the course of Cedeno’srepresentation of Atesta P, the professional relationship allegedly strayed into a personal one. In September 2016, Atesta P and Anthony P commenced the related Pacelli action. The Pacellis allege that Cedeno developed a sexual relationship with Atesta while Cedeno and his law firm was counsel to Atesta P and that Cedeno
sexually assaulted Atesta P (NYSCEF # 97). The Pacellis asserted claims against Cedeno and his firm for: breach of fiduciary duty; violation of judiciary law§ 487; sexual battery and assault; intentional infliction of emotional distress; and loss of consortium. In February 2017, Cedeno and his firm filed an answer and a counterclaim for defamation alleging, among other things, that Atesta P falsely stated that Cedeno raped her (NYSCEF # 98, ~~225-230).
In July 2018, Cedeno and his firm initiated the instant Cedeno action against the Pacellis alleging that “the Pacellis authored, created, and published or caused John Does to author, create, or publish over 120 false and defamatory reviews and websites concerning Plaintiffs” (NYSCEF # 132, ~26). Plaintiffs assert claims for: libel; trade libel; aiding and abetting defamation; intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED); aiding and abetting IIED; intentional interference with prospective business relations; and vicarious liability. ”
“At the outset, plaintiffs claims for IIED based on the factual allegations
contained in Schedule 1 of the complaint are dismissed, as they are factually duplicative of plaintiffs’ defamation claim (see Akpinar v Moran, 83 AD3d 458, 459[1st Dept 2011]). In any event, the alleged defamatory statements are not “so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency” (Howell v New York Post Co., 81NY2d115, 122 ).”
“Plaintiffs also allege that defendants took harassing actions against
plaintiffs, including posting of. Cedeno’s cell-phone number on a Craigslist ad on Christmas day; reviews specifically mentioning Cedeno’s daughter; and the letter to Cedeno’s wife (Complaint at if91). Those allegations also fail to sufficiently allege conduct so extreme and atrocious as to support a claim for IIED (Howell, 81 NY2d at 122).
Since plaintiffs’ claim for IIED is dismissed, it follows that their claim for
aiding and abetting IIED must also be dismissed. ”
For the full flavor of the online situation, read the full decision.