East End resort sues over Facebook posts

Morritt’s seeks damages for libel

Morritt’s resort in East End is suing a former timeshare property owner for libel over comments she made about the hotel owners on Facebook.

The resort owners claim their reputations have been damaged and they have lost business because of a string of inaccurate social media posts by the woman.

They are seeking damages and an injunction restraining her from posting defamatory remarks about the hotel.

Potential test case

If it goes to court, the suit could become a Cayman Islands test case for freedom of speech on Facebook.

It is not the first time legal action has been taken in the Cayman courts over social media postings.

Joey Ebanks, the former Electricity Regulatory Authority chief and political candidate, was hit with a similar suit in 2013 after a series of bizarre posts on Facebook about public figures, including former governor Duncan Taylor and Dan Scott, the head of Judicial and Legal Services Commission.

Mr. Ebanks, who was later jailed on separate criminal charges, removed the offending posts and the civil case never progressed.

In this case, David and Mimi Morritt along with Morritt Properties Cayman Limited are bringing the suit against Patricia Crockett, who they say has damaged their reputation in a series of posts on the resort’s various Facebook groups.

The woman’s alleged posts include allegations implying that maintenance fees had been misappropriated by the resort’s owners, while the properties were allowed to fall into a state of disrepair.

In later posts, the content of which is published in the 11-page court filing, Ms. Crockett alleges that the Morritt’s resorted to surveillance and blackmail to keep her quiet.

The lawsuit says the statements are false and were maliciously published with the intent of causing damage to the plaintiffs by making people less likely to visit the resort complex.

It says the remarks caused considerable hurt, distress and embarrassment to the Morritt family and seriously harmed their reputation. It adds that they have suffered a loss of business as a result of the comments.

The writ states, “Refurbishment and renovation is a matter for the companies which accumulate the relevant management fees (not Morritt).

In any event, funds have been spent by those companies on continual renovation and refurbishment of the resort complex and no such funds have been appropriated by the plaintiffs ….

“None of the plaintiffs have ever been involved in blackmail. None of the plaintiffs has ever spied on or monitored the defendant.”

According to the court filing, Ms. Crockett used to own a timeshare property at the resort. Following a number of disputes, the resort owners agreed to buy back her property, the paperwork states.

It adds that the defendant continued to visit the resort, staying at a different timeshare property.

The posts referenced in the writ are from October and November of last year and from January of this year and appeared on the Morritt’s Grand Resort Facebook page and the Cayman Islands Friends of Morritts Tortuga Facebook page, which have 503 and 610 members, respectively.

The writ adds, “Although the defendant has been excluded from a number of online forums, she continues to find new ways of publishing defamatory and maliciously false statements. Unless restrained by this honourable court, the defendant will further publish the words complained of or similar words that are defamatory of the plaintiffs and maliciously false.”

The plaintiffs claim damages for libel and/or malicious falsehood and an injunction restraining the defendant from publishing defamatory remarks, as well as costs.

Ms. Crockett told the Compass she was unable to comment on the lawsuit, based on legal advice.

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  1. If this goes to court, I think that the people of Cayman Islands need to give support for the freedom of speech / opinion. Remember that you can’t do or say anything after the freedom of speech is taken away from you.

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  2. There is a thin line between Freedom of speech and harassment. If you’re stating an opinion that’s free speech but if you make direct attacks on someones character in an effort to harm them or their business it becomes harassment. If you walk into someones place of work and tell the boss that you think they’re on drugs and should not be working for them, it crosses the line of freedom of speech.

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