Fish — one of nature’s most fragile, and litigious, pets.
When Michelle and Robert Duchouquette, of Plano, Texas went away on vacation last year, the couple left their two dogs and Betta fish, Gordy, in the hands of Prestigious Pets. After returning from their vacation, the couple noticed that Gordy’s bowl was cloudy — a consequence of overfeeding. So the Duchouquettes posted a negative review on Yelp — and Prestigious Pets countered with a friendly $1 million lawsuit.
Seems entirely reasonable.
The company claims that the couple had signed a contract agreeing “not to make negative comments about Prestigious Pets and to not disparage Prestigious Pets.” According to the lawsuit, the Duchouquette’s allegations went beyond a simple one star Yelp review and included a variety of written and broadcast mediums, including Facebook, ABC, and NBC.
As if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, grab your popcorn, reader — there’s more.
Prestigious Pets argues that as a result of the Duchouquettes supposed defamation, the company has received “numerous rape and death threats . . . in addition to other forms of harassment such as identify theft, impersonations, can calls, etc.”
All of this originating, of course, in a one star Yelp review accusing the company of overfeeding a fish named “Gordy” (Sorry, but with a name like “Gordy,” he’s meant to be overfed).
The couple’s lawyer, Paul Levy, claims that the couple’s allegation was truthful. Furthermore, the couple had a right to post negative reviews under the First Amendment, regardless of what their contract says.
In one of the most painful defenses of all time, Levy writes:
“There are photos showing that the fish water became cloudy and that food accumulated at the bottom of the tank, which must have been caused by overfeeding, and apparently overfeeding is a serious issue for this kind of tropical fish.”
Please remember that — regardless of how you feel about first amendment rights — this is a Betta fish we’re talking about. Bettas currently retail for $4.59 on PetSmart, and they die all the time. The Duchouquettes were able to monitor their fish’s health because they keep a camera on the fish’s bowl.
Repeat: a camera on their bowl.
Levy filed the defense on Thursday. Gordy the fish was not available for comment.
[h/t Ars Technica]