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Avvo Wins Landmark Lawsuit under Washington’s Anti-SLAPP Law

Successful outcome against sanctioned attorney sets precedent as one of the very first examples of Anti-SLAPP legislation at work.

Seattle, WA – March 30, 2012 – In a victory for web transparency and the First Amendment, Avvo, Inc., the web’s largest expert-only health and legal Q&A forum and directory (http://www.avvo.com/), announced today that it has prevailed in a false advertising and misrepresentation lawsuit filed by a sanctioned attorney.  The case is one of the first decisions under Washington State’s new Anti-SLAPP law, which provides for the rapid resolution of lawsuits filed primarily to chill the exercise of freedom of speech. 

In addition to dismissing the case, the United States District Court in Seattle found that the plaintiff, St. Petersburg, FL attorney Larry Joe Davis Jr., is liable for Avvo’s legal fees in excess of $50,000 and a $10,000 fine. This decision sets important precedent that those exercising their First Amendment rights should not have to fear frivolous lawsuits designed to silence them.   

“We’ve said from the very beginning that we will not be bullied into censoring important information for consumers. People have a right to information about the professionals they are seeking to hire,” said Mark Britton, Founder and CEO of Avvo. “We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. Not only did we defend our right to free speech, but as one of the first decisions under the Washington anti-SLAPP law, we have demonstrated the need for anti-SLAPP legislation across the country to protect first amendment rights against lawsuits designed to censor them.”

In August 2010 Mr. Davis first claimed libel in his lawsuit, and then replaced this claim with claims of false advertising and misrepresentation. Avvo had the case transferred from Florida to Washington and then filed a motion to strike Davis’ complaint under the state’s anti-SLAPP law, which took effect in 2010.

The judge’s ruling on the motion was granted on all claims and the case dismissed. Read the complete ruling here (CASE NO. C11-1571RSM): http://media.avvo.com/avvo-press/Avvo_AntiSlappMotion_Ruling.pdf

This lawsuit is not the first time a sanctioned lawyer has attempted to sue Avvo. In June 2007, only nine days after the website’s launch, Avvo was sued by John Henry Browne, a sanctioned Seattle lawyer. (Case number C07-0920RSL). That case was quickly dismissed by the United States District Court in Seattle in a published decision strongly upholding Avvo’s First Amendment right to publish information and its opinions about lawyers.

About Avvo, Inc.
Avvo is the web’s largest expert-only legal and health Q&A forum and professional directory, providing trusted answers to consumer health and legal questions every 9.7 seconds. In Avvo’s free Q&A forum consumers can get free legal advice or free medical advice from more than 100,000 participating lawyers, doctors and dentists.  Avvo’s professional directory provides comprehensive profiles, patient and client reviews, peer endorsements and the unbiased, industry-recognized Avvo Rating for more than 90% of doctors, dentists and lawyers in the U.S.  In March 2012, Avvo launched a new campaign, “No Question Left Unanswered,” to raise awareness of the need for consumers to get more reliable, trustworthy information online about health concerns and health providers.  More information can be found at http://answers.avvo.com.  Launched in 2007, Avvo is privately held, with funding from Benchmark Capital, Ignition Partners and DAG Ventures. For more information, visit www.avvo.com.