From The Columbus Dispatch

A Columbus man faces a lawsuit with potential damages of more than $1 million because of comments he made online about his experience renting at a Northwest Side apartment complex.

James Raney, an information-technology developer who now lives in Harrison West, commented on several forums about his time at the Meridian off W. 5th Avenue. He used a comic tone to contrast the complex’s purported “luxury apartments” and his view of their reality.

The complex’s owner, the Connor Group of Dayton, responded to Raney’s comments with a defamation lawsuit filed in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court. It accuses Raney of making untrue statements with the intent to financially damage the company.

Other Connor critics say the suit is nothing more than an attempt to silence someone who is expressing opinions shared by large number of current or former tenants.

In the legal world, this is often called a “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” or SLAPP, said Christopher M. Fairman, an associate dean at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. Some states have laws that limit such suits, but not Ohio.

“This is a poster child for a SLAPP suit,” he said. “The purpose is to silence critics.”

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