BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. (CN) - An Albany-area attorney asked a court to order her former law school intern to take down defamatory online reviews of her work and not to post any new ones.
Attorney Jean M. Mahserjian claims her former summer intern, Peter Caschera, defamed her under a string of aliases after a dispute over wages in 2010 precipitated a two-year campaign that damaged her reputation and cost her business.
"The defendants' course of conduct in posting and reposting malicious and false statements about the plaintiffs and in persistently making harassing and threatening phone calls to the plaintiffs constitutes extreme and outrageous conduct," Mahserjain and her law office say in the pro se complaint. She seeks damages of at least $1 million.
Mahserjian claims Caschera's conduct "exceeded all possible bounds of decency and must be regarded as extreme and outrageous and utterly intolerable in civilized society," and caused emotional distress "so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it."
In her complaint in Saratoga County Supreme Court, Mahserjian says she hired Caschera "during the summer of 2010 after he had completed his first year of law school."
The complaint does not name the law school, but Caschera's profile on LinkedIn says he is an alumnus of Albany Law School.
That is where Mahserjian earned her J.D., magna cum laude, according to her firm's website. The three-lawyer firm, founded in 1991, focuses on matrimonial law, estate planning and bankruptcy. It is in Clifton Park, a suburb about 30 minutes north of Albany.
Also named as defendants are a number of aliases Mahserjian claims Caschera used, including "Sarah Maxey," "Roberto" and "a Google user." She says he used the aliases to post bogus "client reviews" about the law firm on various websites.
Caschera is named as a defendant both individually and dba Vespa Schenectady. Vespa Schenectady is a defendant, too, as is Rocco Caschera, both individually and dba Vespa Schenectady.
Peter Caschera "conducted business for Vespa Schenectady while working for the plaintiffs, including spending time outside of plaintiffs' offices during normal work hours to do so," according to the complaint.
Vespa Schenectady, a franchise selling the Italian scooters, began operating in Schenectady in mid-2008, according to The Daily Gazette. The newspaper reported that Peter Caschera opened it with his younger brother, Giuseppe, soon after graduating from Georgetown University. The dealership took space at the foreign auto parts and service business operated by their father, Rocco Caschera.
Mahserjian claims that after Peter Caschera completed his summer internship, "he demanded additional payment for time spent outside of plaintiffs' offices."
Mahserjian refused and says that led to his "intentional and/or reckless and malicious and harassing course of conduct."
This took the form of "threatening, harassing and hang-up phone calls" to Mahserjian's office line and cell phone, online postings on Mahserjian's Facebook page, and reviews of her business on Google and Yelp, according to the complaint. She claims the defamatory reviews accused her of "illegal conduct and unethical and questionable professional behavior."
Mahserjian says the phone calls and Web postings were made from the Vespa office, and that "defendants Vespa Schenectady and Rocco Caschera are aware of and failed to prevent defendant Peter Caschera's continuing malicious and tortious conduct."
She says she asked the defendants to stop the harassment, "to no avail," and that Web postings continued as recently as December.
Mahserjian seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions against the defendants "prohibiting ... any further acts of defamation or publishing any statements, comments or information regarding plaintiffs on any Internet website."
She also wants the defendants to "take all action including, but not limited to removing every statement about plaintiffs that defendants posted on any website."
And she asks the court to declare that the comments posted on Google, Yelp and Facebook are false.
She also seeks monetary damages for harm to business reputation, intentional interference with the business and emotional distress, and punitive damages of at least $1 million.
She also seeks reimbursement for her costs of "private cyber investigative services" who tracked down the online posters.