Cottrell v. SmithAnnotate this Case
Plaintiff Stanley Cottrell, Jr. appealed the grant of judgment notwithstanding the verdict (“JNOV”) and earlier grants of directed verdicts in this action alleging defamation and related torts, and potentially implicating the constitutionality of portions of the Georgia Computer Systems Protection Act (“GCSPA”) in favor of five defendants: Glenn and Marian Crocker (“Crockers”), Hugh Johnson (“Johnson”), Peggy Smith (“Peggy”), and Karen Smith (“Karen”). This matter arose out of some online postings and other communications by Defendants about Cottrell. For a number of years, Cottrell participated in a number of solo running exhibitions with a Christian evangelical emphasis, some of which have been portrayed in the media, and was subsequently involved in various multi-level marketing endeavors, executive leadership positions, and motivational speaking. Cottrell’s notoriety grew along with media controversy relating to his character, which questioned the authenticity and integrity of his claims and achievements. The Crockers worked for Cottrell planning two running exhibitions; Johnson was a long-time friend of Cottrell’s who came to know some women with whom Cottrell was involved outside of his marriage; Peggy is one of the women with whom Cottrell had an extra-marital affair; and Karen is Peggy’s daughter-in-law. Karen located and contacted several people she believed had information about Cottrell, including the Crockers and Johnson. Karen and her husband created a “WordPress” blog and posted stories based on this information, which portrayed Cottrell as having a long history of misrepresentation and deception for personal gain. Karen sent emails to a “list serve” group criticizing Cottrell and sharing links to the Blog posts, and Peggy sent messages to multiple Cottrell Facebook “friends” along the same lines. Cottrell sued, primarily alleging defamation and several associated claims (invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violation of the GCSPA). After review of Cottrell's arguments on appeal of the JNOV, the Supreme Court concluded JNOV was indeed warranted in this case, and affirmed the trial court's judgments.