The 1979 Masters and 1984 US Open Champ filed suit in Miami last week.
Pro golfer Fuzzy Zoeller is teed off over what he calls defamatory statements about him on Wikipedia.
But instead of suing the popular online reference site, Zoeller is taking a swing at a Miami company. In a lawsuit filed last week in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, Zoeller — suing under the name John Doe — alleged the statements were posted from a computer belonging to Josef Silny & Associates.
Josef Silny, the company’s president, expressed surprise when told this week by a Miami Herald reporter that the 1979 Masters champion was suing his company.
Zoeller’s attorney, Scott D. Sheftall of Miami, said he had to sue the company because he can’t sue Wikipedia. Federal law says “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as publisher or speaker of any information provided by another.”
However, Silny said he doubts any of his 45 employees was responsible for the statements.
Zoeller’s identity was concealed in the suit to protect his privacy and prevent further harm, his attorney said. Sheftall has sought to have the entire court file sealed. However, he agreed to discuss the case after The Miami Herald learned Zoeller’s identity.
”The Zoeller family wants to take a stand to put a stop to this,” Sheftall said. “Otherwise, we’re all just victims of the Internet vandals out there. They ought not to be able to act with impunity.”
Sheftall added there’s no source to suggest any truth to the statements, which accuse Zoeller of abusing drugs, alcohol and his family.
Wikipedia calls itself the largest reference website on the Internet. Articles on Wikipedia can be edited by anyone who has registered with the site. Wikipedia, though, warns in a disclaimer that it “cannot guarantee the validity of information found here.”
The statements Zoeller finds defamatory no longer appear in his current Wikipedia biography, but they can still be seen by reviewing a history of entries made. The statements apparently were first posted Aug. 28 by someone using the name Damien Lynch but were later removed. They were reposted twice, most recently on Dec. 20. It’s that posting that Zoeller’s attorney has linked to Silny’s firm. The statements were removed on Jan. 2.
When I first saw the headline, I thought the suit was related to these comments of Fuzzy. Considered very likable up till then, Fuzzy’s reputation never recovered.
Fuzzy is the second pro golfer to sue for defamation or libel recently. John Daly filed a lawsuit against the Florida Times-Union in 2005.
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