A Chicago bankruptcy attorney and his girlfriend filed a court document Monday in an attempt to identify the people responsible for leaving posts and comments about them on a gossip website.
In their petition, Robert Semrad Jr. and Yuki Nakane ask the Cook County Circuit Court to force Dirty World LLC-- the owner of www.thedirty.com-- to give them information to identify the people behind the anonymous and fictitious screen names that made a host of allegedly defamatory statements about them on at least two separate occasions.
Filed under an Illinois Supreme Court rule that allows discovery to occur prior to a lawsuit, the petition says Semrad and Nakane "intend to file a suit sounding in defamation, false light, invasion of privacy, public disclosure of private facts, and intentional and/or negligent infliction of emotional distress against the persons and/or entities responsible for the origination and dissemination of statements" on thedirty.com.
Semrad, a senior partner at an bankruptcy law firm bearing his name and known as DebtStoppers, claims the posts and comments at the crux of his petition made statements falsely calling him "an alcoholic, a drug addict, a neglectful father, a child molester, a drunk driver who has killed at least one person" who "has sexually transmitted diseases and/or AIDS, and practices unethical professional behavior."
The statements made on thedirty.com about Nakane, who is identified as being in a relationship with Semrad on both of their Facebook pages, falsely allege she "neglects and beats her children, is a drug addict, has sexually transmitted diseases and is an alcoholic," the petition states.
Semrad and Nakane claim that it all started on Dec. 16, when an anonymous user claiming to be Nakane created a post on thedirty.com titled "My Boyfriend is the Biggest Alcoholic."
The post alleged Nakane had an abusive and alcoholic boyfriend, but the couple asserts Nakane did not create the post that contains several false and defamatory statements.
Several anonymous users went on to leave comments on that post that Semrad contends defamed him, put him in a false light and invaded his privacy.
The couple became aware of the statements made in the Dec. 16 post, as well as the subsequent comments, sometime last month, but haven't been able to identify the user(s) behind them.
And then on Jan. 6, according to the pre-suit discovery petition that submitted by Jeffrey S. Becker and Claire A. Floore of Swanson Martin & Bell LLP, an anonymous user created a post on thedirty.com called "Rob Semrad From Debt Stopper to Drunken Stooper."
Since then, Semrad and Nakane claim comments have been left on that post that are defamatory and paint both of them in a false light, invade their privacy, make public disclosures of private facts and inflict emotional distress.
In an attempt to stop further postings and in order to sue for damages, the couple filed the pre-suit discovery petition. Court records show a motion hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 20.
The petition seeks a court order compelling Dirty World "to produce complete copies or printouts of computer screens and other documents revealing user information, Internet Protocol ('IP') addresses and any other records which could enable Petitioners to identify and locate those" responsible for posting the allegedly false statements.
While they don't know exactly how many people in Illinois have read thedirty.com posts that spurred the petition, Semrad and Nakane allege that "at least 400 users have read the original posts and then commented on the same"
Noting their status as private residents and that Semrad owns a business and raises his children in Chicago, the pair asserts that the damage to them "will be grave, specifically in terms of business development and personal fall out."
According to the petition, Dirty World is a Delaware corporation hardhearted in Scottsdale, Arizona that owns the dirty.com, a gossip blog that allows users to anonymously create posts and comment.
The site was not functioning as of Tuesday afternoon, when a message appeared saying its "servers were overloaded." The gossip website was founded by Hooman Abedi Karamian, who goes by Nik Richie, in 2007 as dirtyscottsdale.com.
The website is no stranger to litigation. It faced a high-profile defamation lawsuit from Sarah Jones, a former teacher and ex-Bengals cheerleader, who sued over posts accusing her of promiscuity and having STDs.
A jury found in Jones' favor, but the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals last year ruled for thedirty.com, saying that the website operator could not liable for user content under the Communications Decency Act.
Semrad is more than familiar with litigation himself as a lawyer who has been practicing for about two decades. He also knows the system from the perspective of a defendant, according to an April DNAInfo.com article that says he was charged with theft after not paying a $900-plus tab at a Rush Street bar.