Will Australian court case embolden U.S. RV industry to go after critics?

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By Russ and Tiña De Maris

When Australian Tracy Leigh started a Facebook group called Lemon Caravans & RVs, she probably never expected to wind up on the wrong end of a lawsuit. She started the site as a platform for RVers to vent and warn about poor quality RVs from the Land Down Under. The group got popular, with some 47,000 members.

Lemon Caravans allowed its members to discuss problems they had with their RVs, and their misadventures with RV builders in trying to get the problems worked out. Charles Coles was of the same mind. Coles bought a Bruder EXP-6 trailer in 2018 and experienced problems. An Australian company, Bruder builds what it describes as “expedition trailers” for “Global exploration, military, humanitarian & overland enthusiasts.” And Bruder apparently doesn’t take well to criticism.

An unhappy Charles Coles created a website detailing his complaints with his Bruder Expedition trailer, urging potential customers to think twice before buying one. Apparently feeling some heat, Coles took his site down on May 15. A little over a month later, Bruder brought action against Coles for allegedly publishing false statements. But before Coles’ critical site came down, a member of the Lemon Caravans Facebook page spotted it and linked it on a Facebook post. The page’s administrator, Tracy Leigh, commented on it. “I am hoping by showing this to 45,000 members that Bruder might pick up their act. Losing a sale would cost them a fortune,” she wrote, according to a court judgment.

An unhappy manufacturer, Bruder took Leigh to court, charging her with defamation. It asked for – and was granted – an injunction that prevents Leigh from publishing anything else about the company before the case comes to trial, effectively muzzling the self-appointed watchdog.

Tracy Leigh on facebook.com

Interestingly, if you believe the arguments put forth by Bruder, Leigh’s public shaming of the company was actually having an effect. Bruder told the court Ms. Leigh “clearly intends” to cause it financial harm after saying “naming and shaming [is] the best method of getting a rogue trader to the table to negotiate” and “if you don’t comply, you will suffer economic loss.”

Bruder’s testimony before the court in asking for the gag order included the point that a company director got a text message from a potential customer saying that after reading Tracy Leigh’s posts he had decided against buying a Bruder manufactured trailer.

While this whole mess plays out on the other end of the planet, it does make one wonder: Will America’s RV manufacturers follow suit with suits of their own? It’s apparent that commercial publishers who point to poor manufacturing quality and lousy service after a sale is made are perfectly happy to show their displeasure by chopping off advertising with such “offending” publishers. But go after consumers and those who advocate for them?

The industry is proud of their stand in killing off Lemon Law legislation that would protect consumers, so why not take it to a lower level? Only time will tell.

##RVT907

 

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BILLY Bob Thronton
11 days ago

Interesting what Australia can “legally do to it’s citizens” even after a jury trial (see comments) she was punished for speaking out. Now, here’s the beauty boys and girls. Here, we have rights. As long as you are factual, you are protected by free speach in the US Constitution. However, the caveat in this country is that they can sue you, which then you need to defend yourself. What we need here is tort reform in the sense of looser pays.

That, in itself would clean up a lot of things, including our sometimes unfair justice system.

Vanessa Simmons
11 days ago

For the time being….

Mr Pug
7 months ago

Recent Update..

Ms Tracy Leigh found Guilty of Contempt of Court & sentenced to 200 hours community service

Travel Restrictions in place & warned if breach court orders may be brought back to court for further sentencing.

Mr Pug
9 months ago

The Courts have handed down a Jury Decision. A Jury Ms Leigh fought to have in place instead of a Judge only trial.

10 Days of Testimony

Ms Tracy Leigh LOST her Case..

Ms Leigh did say “I suggest that all observers wait until the conclusion of the cases before commenting or speculating.”

Mr Pug
10 months ago

Well teh Saga Drags on…

Mr Coles submitted his appeal against the Default Judgement on the basis of Service.

To Date the Judge has considered the submissions & has decided to take further time considering its position.

Curia Advisari Vult
Curia advisari vult is a Latin legal term meaning “the court wishes to consider the matter” (literally, “the court wishes to be advised”), a term reserving judgment until some subsequent day.

Tracy Leigh
11 months ago

As I am gagged, I am unable to comment about any specifics of the case, unlike others who can say what they like, true or not. And mostly untrue.
I suggest that all observers wait until the conclusion of the cases before commenting or speculating. Only those of us involved know the facts.

Mr Pug
11 months ago
Reply to  Tracy Leigh

If you are gagged then why do you comment. You are Gagged because you also have Court Proceeding against you.

Perhaps you should have honoured Mr Coles agreement & not posted damaging comments without fully checking your Facts. PORKY PIES abound..

Mr Coles has a FOR SALE Advert still running in which he has nothing but glowing recommendations of Bruder.

ANYONE AT ALL INTERESTED IN THESE OFF ROAD VANS OR ANYTHING PRODUCED BY BRUDER I WOULD HIGHLY RECOMMEND YOU TAKE A LOOK AT MY WEBSITE CREATED TO INFORM OTHERS AS TO MY OWNERS EXPERIENCES.

PLEASE VISIT: http://www.bruderxworld.com

Many van manufacturers claim to make the ultimate off road van that nothing else surpasses.

The Bruder EXP-6 doesn’t need to make these claims; in fact Bruder hardly advertise. Knowing that the serious seeker will find them and when they do they will quickly realise this is the real deal. There simply is no better off road van in THE WORLD. The majority of Bruder Vans are sold to discerning buyers in Australia, North America, Europe and the Emirate States who have done their homework and realise this fact.

But, the Bruder is really built for Australia’s harsh conditions, with the best articulated suspension and chassis on the market, 12 inch vertical travel difference between front and rear wheels (unheard of in any other van), adjustable tow weights, best tracking behind tow vehicle and the highest insulation ‘R’ rating on the market anywhere. Remote controlled variable height air suspension adjustment with 12 inch travel. Full mono cellular epoxy construction using European injected composite (this means no joints or use of any aluminium extruded connectors etc between panels) makes the body the toughest on the market.

Phil Sanchez
11 months ago
Reply to  Mr Pug

Well said

Ian Fraser
10 months ago
Reply to  Tracy Leigh

Looks like you just breached the gag order.

Phil Sanchez
11 months ago

Mr Coles complained about his Bruder caravan listed numerous faults but yet advertised his van as faultless.

https://expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/2018-bruder-expedition-exp-6-off-road-van.201052/

Ian Skinner
11 months ago

From my understanding it is alleged the company won damages against Mr Coles because he did not turn up to court to contest the allegations. Consumer protection in Australia is absismal. Whilst there is legislation to protect the consumer it is often not enforced by government bodies whose job it is to protect the consumer.

Mr Pug
11 months ago
Reply to  Ian Skinner

He made an appeal because a Default Judgement was made against him.

Now we await the court decision whether his appeal to continue the Case is successful. Appeal was heard 29th August..

IF he is successful then the Case against him will continue & a court decision will be made on the evidence.

If appeal is not successful then Default Judgement will stand.

Pieter
11 months ago
Reply to  Mr Pug

As far as I know, he didn’t attend the initial court case as he wasn’t aware of the date

Mr Pug
11 months ago
Reply to  Pieter

Pieter
Not about attending.. He didn’t submit a defence to the claim. The court issued a default against him
He has lodged an appeal against the Default Judgement.
Claims wasn’t served with papers correctly.
A directions hearing was held on Thursday & awaiting a court decision whether to uphold his appeal.

If Not upheld then the Judgement against him may stand.

Mr Pug
11 months ago

Australia may not have Freedom of Speech.. We do have Defamation Laws.

This case is not difficult to fathom.. Before you make a claim on FB make sure the Facts support the claims made.

And when asked to remove such claims never say BRING IT ON… They brought it…

Considering what is out there in the Public Forum there is a case to answer.. The Van in Question.. .

Google “Expedition Portal 2018 BRUDER EXPEDITION EXP-6 Off road van” and you find the Advert. It is still For Sale.

You make your own decision whether what is advertised by Mr Coles reflects what is now claimed.

Billy Bob Thorton
11 months ago

Nope. We have what is called freedom of speach. Australians do not.

David J Davidzik
1 year ago

If the manufacturers are allowed to silence the public outing of their crappy products, what’s next, dealers too such as Mr. Lemonis and his world of camping bringing suit for someone posting on a forum such as iRV2 about terrible service they received at a given dealership?

Alvin
1 year ago

Tracy Leigh’s main problem in this is that she got into product naming. That in every possible case set you up for a potential lawsuit, if the claimant wishes to pursue – and nany will today, every when they are dead in the water, over whelmed with negative provable evidence to prove the accuser correct. Courts today almost always weigh in favor of the company being slandered or having their business negatively impacted. same with taking sides in social issues, have your opinion but leave the names out. Often today you need a lawyer to make certain your statement is not going to offend or cause damage to someone. Good point. A lady of color walked into a restaurant in Vancouver Canada some years ago, and because she was an albino, claimed their signature beer -Albino Rhino offended her. She won “unspecified damages”from the company. It nuts out there!

Dr4Film
1 year ago

I belong to private RV discussion forums, not public ones, where problems and solutions are constantly discussed. Plus RV brand, make and models are bashed often. Dealers are not welcomed in those forums hence they are banned from entering. I was a member of iRV2.com which is public but was eventually banned for telling people the truth. There is life after iRV2.com

Rick
1 year ago

I believe you will find hundreds of examples where consumer product manufacturers have stopped an owner with posting data on social media with the mere threat of a lawsuit. Some owners seem to think they can embellish or out right lie about a problem without repercussions….most recently an owner indicated they had severe water leaks throughout their RV…”destroying carpet, flooring and flooring.” The OEM, under their warranty, examined the unit and found one leak under the kitchen sink that allowed 6 ounces of water every 24 hours to leak. Nothing was ruined. Upon completion, the OEM required the owner to sign an agreement admitting they had misrepresented the issue.

TP
1 year ago

Classic example of what is known as a SLAP lawsuit. The company has the deep pockets to bring the suit, and you the individual, has to fork out all the legal fees to defend yourself.

Ed D.
1 year ago

I am not sure how that would play out in the USA. We do have something here called the Constitution, which enables our right to free speech. Having said that, if a consumer encounters a problem with an RV and the Dealer or the Manufacture, refuse to address the problem, we have a right, under the First Amendment, to voice our frustrations to the public. As long as you are being truthful with your discussion and not slandering or defaming a company with lies, I do not believe that it would be the same here.

Jeff
1 year ago
Reply to  Ed D.

I was gonna mention that. Our 1st Amendment is the corner stone to our American Lifestyle.

And unless you make an unsubstantiated or untruthful statement about someone or something, you will be protected under the 1st Amendment. But of course you can always be challenged in court, which will cost you allot of money in attorneys fees.

As an example: I was threatened many years ago for posting information on an RV we owned, that it was a basic piece of Junk! Apparently, it was causing great pain for this manufacturer and subsequently I received a letter in the mail, telling me to cease and desist and remove my comments from my Forum, or face a Lawsuit. I immediately removed my comments and no further action was taken.

So, it is possible to have your 1st Amendment Rights trampled on!

Bill T
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff

This is true , Jeff. The costs incurred by the consumer, on their way to a 1st Amendment verdict, even in their favor, can be outrageous. Large organizations have the resources to drag out litigation indefinitely, so even if the consumer wins the case, he or she can still lose.

Alvin
1 year ago
Reply to  Bill T

.Bill T. Should be WILL lose not “can still lose” Your chances of winning the battle are slim and none. You’d have to go a long distance to find anyone who fought this bunch and won. I did though. We bought a new 26 foot class C, that had 42 true faults in it 6 of which were safety related. Once I found this piece of crap to be what it was I immediately set about documented it as if preparing a court document. I asked for nothing but to give me my money back. After presenting them with the material I had gathered, they did just that. The vehicle had been the victim of an angry factory worker, set of “getting back” to the company. I became his victim. To the companies credit along with the dealer we were able to keep the matter out of the courts. I was prepared to fight regardless of cost. Not many are able to follow through, which I completely understand.

Alvin
1 year ago
Reply to  Ed D.

Ed D. I’d sure not wish anyone spending the time and money to put that first amendment to the test fighting an industry with pockets lined with million dollar bills. WEhave to suck it up, unless we are willing to go to the wall for the cause and take them on. One of the major problems is that nobody, seems to give a dam about this until THEY fall victim then find they themselves are out inthecold fending for themselves. Sad!!