Article

Clay Nissan Settles $1.5M Defamation Suit

May 2013, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Stephanie Forshee

NORWOOD, Mass. — The 10-month social media boycott against Norwood, Mass.-based Clay Nissan is over, with the two lawsuits related to the “Boycott Clay Nissan” settled outside of court earlier this month.

The campaign was launched in June 2012, just days after Jill Colter was terminated from her service writer position at Clay Nissan. Her brothers, Adam and Jonathan, claimed Jill was fired because she had cancer, and then took to social media to boycott the dealership. Jill filed a discrimination case against the dealership’s owner Scott Clay, who then filed a $1.5 million countersuit against her brothers for defamation.

On May 3, Adam Colter, who was the driving force behind the boycott, posted a letter to his nearly 57,000 Facebook followers, announcing that the case had been settled.

Clay confirmed the news in an e-mail to F&I and Showroom, saying, “Yes, the Colter family and the Clay family worked things out, and I believe everyone is as happy as could be with the resolution.”

Erik Syverson, a Los Angeles-based Internet defamation attorney who originally shared his insights with F&I and Showroom during the height of the boycott, wasn’t surprised by the settlement, saying that at least 95 percent of such cases never make it to trial.

“What I have seen [among Internet defamation cases] is usually the larger, wealthier plaintiff party might agree to dismiss the case just for removal of the content. That’s a possibility here,” Syverson says.

Both Clay and Colter refused to comment on any terms of the settlement, but Syverson says it’s completely possible that no money was exchanged at all since the point of a defamation case is to end the negative image being portrayed online.

In Adam Colter’s Facebook post to the boycott followers, he painted a far cleaner picture of the dealership than back in December when he spoke to the magazine. “… This was such an emotional issue for all involved and when emotions run high, there can be unintended collateral damage to people and their lives on both sides,” read his Facebook post. “Those certainly were never our intentions and to those people, we offer our most sincere apologies …

“I can honestly say that the good I have seen in Scott Clay and his family far outweighs any derogatory posts I may have made toward the Clay’s. In fact, I wholeheartedly encourage everyone that was either directly or indirectly involved with this site to kindly disregard any negative comments I may have made toward the Clay Family.”

Colter said his note would be his final posting on the matter. He also stated that the Facebook page, as well as the campaign’s Twitter account and website, would be deleted. All three were removed on May 9. Posts, however, made to Change.org still appear, but a page authored by Jonathan Colter shows a request for his petition to be deleted from the site.

Content on Clay Nissan’s ClayFamilyCares.com was also removed from the site, which now says it is “undergoing maintenance.”

With the removal of the content from sites like Facebook, “Boycott Clay Nissan” is no longer among the No. 1 search results page for the dealership on Google — where several of the top search results were previously overtaken by boycott pages.

Syverson addressed the removal of the boycott sites, saying that’s the ultimate goal in most cases. “That would be something you would typically see, both in a settlement or if you went to trial with the jury and received a judgment,” he explains. “That’s what’s driving the litigation.”

—     Stephanie Forshee

 

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