Mark Flood vs. Blake Taylor: Defamation Lawsuit over Tweets & Website (Pinellas County, FL)

edited May 2016
I normally hate discussing or covering domestic/divorce lawsuit cases. They are often messy affairs and it is hard to tell who is telling the truth and generally the only people that care are people who know the parties.

However, this was brought to my attention and I became interested in this case because it appears that a successful Pinellas County doctor is attempting to misuse defamation lawsuits as a means to squelch his ex-wife's tweeted opinions about him. He also seems to object her informational website that covers her descriptions of their contentious divorce, the lawsuits he has filed against her, and other potentially embarrassing personal information.

https://www.scribd.com/doc/313496750/Mark-Flood-v-Taylor-Wrongful-defamation-lawsuit-over-ex-s-Tweets

https://www.scribd.com/doc/313497072/Mark-Flood-v-Taylor-Amended-Lawsuit-Complaint-over-website-tweets

Her lawyer wrote defenses to both the original and amended lawsuits:

https://www.scribd.com/doc/313496899/Mark-Flood-vs-Taylor-Motion-to-Dismiss-Strike-Claim-of-Damages

https://www.scribd.com/doc/313497454/Mark-Flood-v-Taylor-Defendant-Answer-Affirmative-Response-to-Amended-Complaint

Some of her alleged tweets include:
1. “Would U want a surgeon 2 operate on U who began a whistle blower suit on surgeons 4 bad deeds and then went 2 work for them 4 big $$$. Ethical doc?”
2. “How would U fee if U found out the spine surgeon that permanently injured U in surgery was on a lot of weight loss drugs?”
3. “How would U feel if U learned that surgery was done on ur spine at the wrong level and U were not told? Facility knew and didn’t report it?”
4. “Lawsuit against #DrMarkFlood & #LaserSpine Institute that I” subpoenaed to give testimony. I have career ending info . . .”
5. “. . . I agree that surgeon’s behavior outside the O.R. is important in showing his morals and integrity.”
6. “. . . I agree surgeon’s behavior outside the O.R. is important in showing his morals & integrity. Stayed quiet for 2 years. Thanks 4 all the tweets.”
7. “I agree surgeon’s behavior outside the OR important 2 show his morals & integrity. If he’d harm his own family what would he do2 others?”
8. “I have career ending information that I’m subpoenaed to testify about. This is Laser Spine Institute.”
I am not a defamation expert but most of these tweets are not even close to defamatory. Tweets # 4-8 all reflect her opinions about her ex, alleged information she has, and are not necessarily irrefutable facts. Tweet # 1 - The tweets appear to discuss an unnamed person. Even if the tweet directly referred to Mark Flood and was untrue, simply asserting that a doctor is "bad" or "unethical" are merely opinions. Tweets # 2-3 poses questions for the reader to think and interpret. There is no directly reference to Mark Flood nor is there a direct statement that I can see. And even if these were direct references to Mark and they are statements vs. posing questions, they would also have to be factually untrue to approach defamation.

IN other words, there are many tests for any statement made and would have to meet to qualify it as true defamation. Yes, some of the tweets insinuate and could be construed as potentially reputation-damaging. But reputation-damaging is not the same as defamation.

The other big item Mark Flood appears to object to is Blake's http://MarkFloodDivorce.com website. Blake claims that she was a court reporter and careful to make statements that are within bounds. I read over the website and I do not know for certain if everything she has written is factually correct but they certainly do reflect Blake's opinions and views from her perspective. And while some of the items might potentially be embarrassing such as references to "sugar babies", it is hard for me to see anything she has written that actually qualifies as defamation.

In my view, Mark Flood is not doing himself any favors attempting to file a defamation lawsuit to silence Blake. All it does is magnify her claims and statements against him. There is a relatively high bar that must be met to claim defamation. Even then, all a defamation lawsuit can do is to attempt to win monetary damages. It does not serve to squelch anyone's 1st Amendment rights to write, publish, and share their story with the general public.

Comments

  • It was brought to my attention a very impressive, pushback letter against BOTH Mark Flood, his lawyer, and the law firm. Oftentimes, the person being attacked is the opposing party. But it isn't often one sees one lawyer also threaten the opposing lawyer and its law firm with sanctions. (Mark Flood; David A. Maney, Esq.; and Maney, Damsker, Jones & Kuhlman,P.A.)

    http://markflooddivorce.com/images/Sanctions_Letter.pdf

    It appears to me the lawyer for Blake (Christopher Hopkins) is very committed to his position. This letter bears reading and studying as it does not occur very much. I was informed that the letter was quite effective.
  • The relentless financial/legal abuse that I'm dealing with in this divorce has caused me to feel the need to go public. I stayed silent for 2 years. I am very interested in lobbying for family court reform and by sharing my story many other victims/survivors of this same abuse have come forward to join my fight for change.
  • I agree. There are two fundamental issues here, Freedom of Speech and Abuse of Process. Blake's case, besides being a nasty, dirty divorce, is a point on example of both, where one party uses and manipulates laws for their own agenda, usually the party with money to hire the high priced attorneys. This leaves the party who is already living on a frugal, shoe string budget very little leverage to battle with. These people resort to our inherent right to speak out about injustices. However, the person with the financial advantage drags the person speaking out into court trying to silence them for fear of exposure and to break them financially into submission of their will. It's a violation of not only our civil rights but of our ethical and moral responsibility to justice.

    The lack of substantial consequences is the major contributor to manipulation of the system be it by a plaintiff, attorney or judge. Judges are immune for their actions which results in a God complex for those who choose to abuse their position. An attorney who is well aware that their plaintiff is lying yet proceeds with filing an order is guilty of Attorney Misconduct under the ethical provisions, however, to sue an attorney for misconduct requires the person to hire an attorney which takes a substantial amount of money that the plaintiff rarely has. The Plaintiff that initiates the petition under the pretense of manipulating the system to their benefit is guilty of Abuse of Process and the Plaintiff who purposely lies to get a petition is guilty of Perjury.

    Justice is a misnomer as it has nothing to do with justice, it has to do with law. The law is clear. Our Constitution states that our inherent right is Freedom of Speech. Our Constitution very clearly states that we are entitled to representation in a court of law IF the case is criminal or juvenile. Those of us who end up in a Civil or Family Court and lack the financial ability to secure representation are literally screwed and that is where our Freedom of Speech is absolutely critical. We rely on this inherent right that we were born into to be able to speak out against " a society of profoundly unequal resources, adversarial criminal justice, and ignorance of complex law, justice can only prevail if the state provides an indigent defendant with an attorney." as so eloquently stated by the Supreme Court in Gideon v Wainright in 1963.

    Implementing legal and severe consequences for intentional misuse of our system will be the catalyst for its diversion. Manipulation of justice for a self-serving agenda under the influence of money, power, or personal connections is ethically and morally wrong and should be punished accordingly, including judges, for the greater good of the whole. Until this happens, the general majority is playing on a biased playing field tilted to the Plaintiff's favor. Our First Amendment is our ONLY defense against this hypocritical system. We are a voice. The courts are ours. The judges are our public servants and need to protect the oath they were sworn to uphold without prejudice.
  • Abuse of process is alive and well and there are no penalties for people who lie.

    The ex-parte (one-party testimony) process is well-intended but it is abused way too much.

    And with the Internet, some people think they can just stop someone from sharing their true stories or opinions with others. Just like you can't stop someone from speaking to another person about anyone you want, it is the same on the Internet.

    The key to being safe is making sure you stick to factually correct information and you make clear that you are stating opinions. The possibility that you someone's reputation might get damaged is something all of us have to live with.

    The art of verbal self-defense and now to tell your story is also a paramount skill. Forming alliances with like-minded people is also an important skill. Too many people suffer in silence and don't know how to create alliances.

    This forum is a stepping stone for people looking for like-minded fighters. WE don't cater to wallflowers in this forum. We cater to people who want to unite and stand up for a cause. The ability to speak freely online is one I fight for.
  • Be aware that even in telling the truth and simply giving your opinion you can and very well may be sued. I am very careful about what I write. At times, and I make those times clear, I may be simply giving an opinion about something (which I'm being sued for right now). The things that I wrote as facts are 100% true and I can prove it (also being sued for). It is very expensive to defend yourself against these harassing defamation lawsuits. They are often filed by someone with plenty of money who knows you are telling the truth but is planning on shutting you up by causing you to not be able to afford your defense. These bully lawsuits also often cause the Streisand Effect. Bullying me to take away my 1st Amendment rights is very serious to me. I have a story to tell and no one is going to stop me from telling it.
  • I agree Matthew, unity is power. There are so many that are bullied into silence that slip into depression, isolation, confusion and even suicide because of the blatant injustice of it all. A system that they rely on to protect them from the victimization they have already endured that turns around and laughs in their face, diminishing and demeaning them by their indifference and lack of knowledge on psychological manipulation from self serving narcissists along with their lack of integrity to really understand the dynamics of the cases in front of them. Shame on them.

    Thank you for creating this forum that creates a platform for others in the same position the opportunity to find each other and come together. And thank you to the attorneys that are dedicated to preserving our Constitutional Rights.

    United We Stand, Divided We Fall.
  • edited May 2016
    Yes, Blake, you are absolutely correct. The legal system favors those who have financial and legal resources. This is why sometimes one has to think if it is "worth it" or not.

    So many relationships go off the rails and the venom continues on. I generally dislike dealing with relationship type of lawsuits and cases because it is so messy. I tend to believe when one is in a toxic relationship, one should escape and run away as fast as possible.
    Blake said:

    Be aware that even in telling the truth and simply giving your opinion you can and very well may be sued. It is very expensive to defend yourself against these harassing defamation lawsuits. They are often filed by someone with plenty of money who knows you are telling the truth but is planning on shutting you up by causing you to not be able to afford your defense. .

  • I agree Matt, however in my case going public was about much more than my situation. Family court is a very unfair place. The people who suffer the most are the non wage earner and the children. I have heard from a large number of women who have become homeless as a result of their divorces. We are in desperate need of reform in this area. It has now become my passion and I am getting personally involved in lobbying for reform to the current antiquated practices in this area of law. I am now approaching $500,000.00 in fees and costs in my divorce. We have accomplished nothing. I can't stop the financial abuse, it just goes on and on. I'm paying my own fees and can't afford them. I have to keep taking loans. My estranged husband earns $200,000.00 a month. This should not be happening. I hope to save women in the future of the abuse that I am suffering.
  • I have read both the website and looked at Blake's tweets. I'm no expert but I don't see anything that would constitute defamation. What I do see is what looks like very unstable behavior by a man/child who doesn't want others to know what he is putting his wife through during their divorce. What did this guy do that would cause an insurance company to pay out millions of dollars to a plaintiff in a malpractice case? That just does not happen unless it's something pretty serious. The lawsuit against Blake is outlandish and clearly shows it's only about taking away her 1st Amendment right. Apparently this guy is going to do all that he can to shut her up. You're in my prayers Blake.
  • Blake, you are so right on every point! The strength in your words and fight are indescribable. You have been a source of strength to me and many other women. Family court is filled with those who will lie to get away with their behavior with no ramifications for doing so. Unfortunately, as it seems to be, the one who spins the best lie and has the best attorney wins the case. Without documentation to backup your claims, regardless of what they may be, gets you no where. Justice is sadly, at times, a foreign concept for those suffering in this way. Custody is lost, finances are taken, properties go into foreclosure, lies take over the court room and too any are left with nothing else to do but give up the fight. But we CANNOT keep doing that! We can't surrender simply because it's easier that way. Nothing will ever change if no one takes a stand. And, to me, you are a game changer. Keep fighting against injustices, hon. We are always around and behind you. #soulsistersunited ❤️
  • Amen to what you said Pepper. Without the sharing of stories, we would be ignorant of the true issues that are navigating OUR system and our rights. It's not an easy path to take when we decide to fight back, it's hell, in every possible way, and I believe even more so when we our the single care provider for our children. Single parents are already do doing double duty, then to put yet another financial and emotional burden on top of it is nothing short of intentional cruelty on behalf of the entitled adult child be it man or woman. The bottom line is that those of us who have experienced the corruption at its core need to go public. It is the only way to bring attention to an issue that is not morally or ethically acceptable.

    "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead
  • Why do men with money think that they can control everyone with it? It seems the more money someone has the bigger the bully they are. I commend you Blake for sharing all that you have been through. The only way that the world can become a better place is for people like you to stand up and say "this is wrong." The behavior of Mark Flood speaks loud and clear of who he is. Free speech should not be dependent on the ability to pay for it. No one has the right to treat anyone the way you have been treated. No one has the right to stop you from sharing your story. The way you are being treated in the courtroom shocks me. Why is this abuse permitted? Something is so wrong with this being allowed. I thought that kind of drama only existed in courtrooms on tv. Florida sounds like a terrible place to be a woman getting a divorce, stay strong.>
  • Thanks to all for your support.

    Matt said: "The art of verbal self-defense and how to tell your story is also a paramount skill. Forming alliances with like-minded people is also an important skill. Too many people suffer in silence and don't know how to create alliances."

    I'm living proof that you must use verbal self-defense by exercising your 1st Amendment rights . My going public with my story has caused so many people to come together and join forces to change this abuse of the judicial system. We will succeed in this task.

    If you are being abused by someone step up and tell your story. It is the only way to change this inexcusable and way too common behavior. Staying silent just empowers your abuser.

  • I have been watching this case in amazement of how a woman can be so blatantly abused in a family court setting. It's outrageous that this is allowed to happen! Most women don't have the funds to keep up this type of battle and end up getting cheated out of everything. But, in this case, Blake has been able to maintain the battle without becoming homeless, just yet.

    Family courts and judges should not allow this to continue. It is a form of domestic violence period! There needs to be reform. Abusers need to be held accountable for their actions!

    As per the slander suit, When you tell the truth, it's not slander. If Mark Flood didn't want Blake to expose his "unscrupulous" behavior, he should act with honor and morals.
  • Blake’s case is the epitome of what usually happens to the woman who has been abused. I admire her strength and courage to stand up to Mark Flood’s unscrupulous behavior. He is really working against himself now by filing this Wrongful-defamation-lawsuit-over-ex-s-Tweets. I had never even heard of him, but now thousands of people will hear his name because of Blake’s persistence to keep speaking out and fighting her battle.

    This is NOT just Blake’s battle. I am an advocate for domestic abuse since I have endured this injustice myself. I just walked away from any attorney’s help or any courtroom scene because I was still too terrified of my abuser. Over my lifetime this has cost me thousands of dollars, because I was a single mother of 4 young children. He did take the kids for a few months out of the year, but I was their main provider. I was on food stamps, and he was making over $100,000 a year. I was still too afraid to stand up to him. Why am I telling you this? Because this happens all the time to thousands of abused women who do not have the financial resources to fight for their own rights.

    I am so glad that Blake continues to find the resources and keep up the fight. This case is so much bigger than just Wrongful-defamation-lawsuit-over-ex-s-Tweets. This case has the potential to speak to the nation about how the deck is stacked against the woman before the court battle even begins (if it ever begins at all). This case could enable hundreds of thousands of women to be able to use their 1st Amendment rights of freedom of speech. It could also empower them to somehow, by the different advocacy groups or through federal funding, to be able to hire an attorney to speak for them.

    I believe that Blake’s case needs to be on national TV, radio stations, newspapers and magazines so that the general public is aware of what really goes on in this type of divorce case and the filing of a defamation lawsuit in an attempt to force her into silence. I believe that the public would be enraged, as they should be!
  • Mark Flood's God complex comes through loud and clear.  The defamation lawsuit against his estranged wife lacks credibility and is nothing more than a guy that feels Blake has no right as a human being to share the abuse she is dealing with at his hands.  What an absurd defamation suit.  I'd love to be in the courtroom for this trial.  Abuse of women in the courtroom setting is alive and well. This bully is well aware that there will be no consequences for his manipulation of the system like so many bullies they use this setting to harm others.  Our injustice system does nothing to deter people like this doctor from doing whatever they want to whomever they want.  Blake is an inspiration to so many others to fight for free speech. 
  • I'm ready to get going in some serious discovery and go to trial. These abusers of our right to free speech don't want to go to trial. He filed the suit against me and then does nothing. Let's go, he needs to show the world how I harmed his reputation LOL. They want to run up your attorney's fees so that you can't afford to fight them and have to stay silent. I will never give up my right to free speech. I have a right to tell my story. I lived it and I'm sharing it to try to help others.
  • Seriously. These delusional people draw first blood then sit back while we have to go out of our way to prove the truth. How backwards is that?! Our birthright of Free Speech is our only ability to fight the system with the exception of the great people in law that truly possess integrity to see that justice is served not only for their fellow man but to make sure that our system isn't corrupted by others.
  • I am not an expert in this, however, there might be recourse for you for through an anti-SLAPP action for wrongful lawsuits on speech matters. I learned more about this with my association with Paul Levy of Public Citizen.
  • Matt, Blake and I will appreciate, as always, any and all information you have regarding the SLAPP action. My ex and his attorney just sent Sandy and I certified letters on Wednesday for a hearing on Monday in TN which violates not only due process again like he did last year but also TN law that states the hearing cannot be less then five days from the time the court receives proof of service. He also sent it to Sandy's boss at her work.
  • I appreciate you both so very much, Matt and Sheila! You two are warriors. I love this article about a young waitress that fought back against a lawfirm's SLAPP Suit: http://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/heres-what-happened-when-a-law-firm-sued-a-20-year-old-waitress-for-posting-a-ba.html
  • Finally here is my update.... Flood's attorney filed an objection to Christopher Hopkins representing me. That put everything on hold. This objection finally went to a hearing and of course the Judge overruled the objection. This was the most bizarre filing that I have ever seen. This was the most bizarre hearing that I have ever witnessed. Now that that is dealt with we are moving forward in the case. We have filed a motion for summary judgement on the tweets I'm being sued for. This is going to be heard next month. Very shortly after we start depositions. I'm so very looking forward to the truth coming out. I love this no bullshit Judge. After 3 1/2 years of being called names and disrespected every time I'm in divorce court it was such a breath of fresh air to be in this Judge's court and not be disrespected once.
  • Blake,

    Why would they object to Chris Hopkins representing you? He is an attorney in good standing, right? I would be interested in seeing the "bizarre filing" if you want to share it with me. Can you elaborate on what has happened? I am curious.
  • There was no law cited in the objection to Christopher representing me. This was another bullying and running up my attorney's fees tactic. First they try to take away my freedom of speech then try to stop me from using the attorney of my choice to defend me. It was complete bullshit. Christopher is a partner at McDonald Hopkins. He is a highly respected attorney. One of the smartest attorneys that I have ever met. He knows his shit and fights hard for his clients. Christopher is one of the attorneys representing Sheila. He is the best of the best.
  • You can read all the filings in this case by going to: https://ccmspa.pinellascounty.org/PublicAccess/default.aspx and entering CASE NO. 15-007645-CI. The public interest in my abusive divorce and then this ridiculous attack on my free speech has been surprising. The support that I have gotten has been so appreciated.
  • The Judge ruled in our favor and granted our motion for summary judgment and dismissed the defamation count of the lawsuit filed against me. We are now left with just the invasion of privacy count.

    Narcs don't like to lose so I wouldn't doubt an appeal will be filed.

    Christopher Hopkins and Jeremy Colvin of West Palm Beach, FL, are two of the best attorneys I have ever met.
  • This a pretty amazing result. However, I hate that you had to go through such an ordeal to get a win. I don't know much about invasion of privacy issues and can't speak to that.
  • I feel that this is a prime example of abuse of process. Free speech is far from free. I spent about 18 months on defending this right with a cost of about $200K. Everything that I said and was being sued for was/is 100% true. I learned in the hearing for summary judgment that free speech does not exist. The arguments that my estranged husband's attorney made for why my tweeted opinons were/are defamation were shocking, to say the least. It is sad that if someone simply doesn't like what you say and has the money to sue you you are in for some real hell and expense to defend yourself.
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