It all started with a clock. Michael Steadman was perusing eBay when he came across a $44 clock that he liked and decided to buy. This wasn’t the first item he bought on eBay, but Steadman now claims it will be the last.
According to The Orlando Sentinel, the clock “arrived in three pieces that didn’t fit together or even seem to be the same model.” Stedman took advantage of eBay’s buyer protection guarantees and returned the item to the seller and got his money back. But he still felt ripped off, and like many eBay users before him, he decided to voice his frustrations in the form of an angry comment. He opened up the seller’s eBay profile page and wrote, “Bad seller; he has the ethics of a used car salesman.”
That exchange probably sounds unmemorable to most eBay users and Web browsers in general. But then the seller, Elliot Miller, who also turned out to be a lawyer, decided to file a $15,000 defamation suit against Steadman, claiming the comment “damaged his reputation and his previous 100% eBay satisfaction rating.” Miller claims he clearly advertised the clock as not having “any guarantees” whether it would actually work. The lawsuit was served back in February 2009, and since then Steadman has shelled out $7,000 in legal fees. A $44 purchase has turned into an expensive debacle and it’s still not over yet.
“I have a second mortgage on my house, and I am a new business owner, so I’ve either got to keep the business going or get my attorney fed,” he said, according to ABC News. He’s now decided to proceed with the case representing himself.
The case and any judicial decision is still pending, but we can look back at previous incidents to get some sense of how it might play out.