And in a case where Xcentric found itself a plaintiff, the news was not a whole lot better. An Arizona based federal court dismissed a malicious prosecution case that Xcentric brought against the subject of a Ripoff Report post.
The subject of the post had filed an unsuccessful lawsuit in California accusing Xcentric of extortion. Xcentric then brought the Arizona suit seeking to recover damages for the malicious prosecution in California.
The case began with a negative post that appeared on Ripoff Report concerning a company called Asia Economic institute. After the negative post appeared, AEI contacted Ripoff. Ripoff stated its policy is that it never removes a post, even if it is false. Ripoff offered AEI the opportunity to participate in its Corporate Advocacy Program, aka “CAP.”
Companies or individuals may enter the CAP program after paying a fee and promising to work with unhappy customers who have filed reports. CAP participants are required to offer full refunds if requested by the customer. And what’s in it for the subject of the negative post? Ripoff will append notes to the post to show that the subject has begun to mend its ways.
According to the AEI lawsuit, Ripoff said it would do nothing about the posts until AEI paid a $5,000 fee and committed to ongoing, additional monthly fees. AEI based its allegations on its recollection of phone conversations with Ripoff personnel. Unfortunately for AEI, however, Ripoff had taped the conversations, and the tapes contradicted AEI’s recollection. Xcentric moved for summary judgment, and the California court granted it.
That led to the malicious prosecution case in Xcentric’s home court of Arizona. But that court found that a malicious prosecution claim is “disfavored” – if such claims were routinely granted, litigants would shy away from brining suits for fear of the consequences if they lost. So in order to prevail on a malicious prosecution claim, the plaintiff must show there was no probable cause for the original claim.
In this case, Xcentric couldn’t meet that standard. Even if AEI lied about the telephone conversations, other evidence supported AEI’s theory that Ripoff used the CAP program to squeeze money out of the subjects of negative posts. AEI couldn’t ultimately marshal enough facts to prove its theory, but that in itself didn’t render the complaint malicious.
This may not be the last word – Xcentric has already appealed. This is an example of the time honored legal strategy – “don’t get mad, get even!”