Aug. 3, 2000
Company Wants to Avoid Possible Chilling Effect from Lawsuit
Public Citizen and Thomas & Betts Corporation (“T&B”) announced today that T&B has decided to dismiss its complaint against twelve “John Doe” posters on an Internet message board, one of whom was represented by attorneys at Public Citizen Litigation Group. The company explained that it was responding to concerns raised by Public Citizen that the lawsuit might chill free speech, and that it had decided that the objectives of the litigation could be better served by other means.
On May 12, 2000, T&B brought suit in California state court against twelve persons, some of whom are believed to be employees or former employees of the company, who had posted anonymous messages on an Internet message board, including information that T&B considered to be confidential, non-public information. As part of the suit, the company sought to identify the anonymous posters. One of the defendants, identified on the message board as WatchingTNB, retained Public Citizen attorneys Paul Alan Levy and Alan Morrison, as well as Charles Bird and Gregory Roper of the San Diego law firm of Luce, Forward, Hamilton, & Scripps, to defend the case.
In a motion responding to the suit, Public Citizen argued that the discussions on Internet message boards provide a forum discussing the doings of important companies, and that depriving posters of their anonymity could discourage the free exchange of ideas. After considering the points presented by Public Citizen, the company agreed with some of the concerns expressed and decided to dismiss the case as to all of the defendants. Public Citizen and T&B have issued the following joint statement with respect to the voluntary dismissal:
“Although Thomas & Betts believes it has a legitimate interest in investigating releases of non-public information, the John Doe litigation it commenced in California was not the best forum to address those concerns. As a result, Thomas & Betts decided to voluntarily dismiss its lawsuit and thereby put to rest any concern that the litigation might chill fair and open discussion of the company’s business. Public Citizen appreciates Thomas & Betts’s responsiveness to the concerns it raised.”