“When did America become a society where people are threatened into silence; where people must have enough money to ‘seek the advice of legal counsel’ before taking any action to try to right a wrong; or where people are afraid to tell the truth, afraid to question the actions of others, or afraid to share information?”
With these words Carla Vigra broke new ground relating to Internet consumer complaint law. Carla developed one of the first online consumer information websites at the infancy of the Internet. The object of her frustration: Terminix International. This corporate giant threatened Carla and lambasted her with lawsuits in an attempt to break her will and silence her voice. Carla’s tenacious determination swept these corporate tactics aside.
Carla’s “Terminix Nightmare” (as she calls it) began when her family purchased a house in reliance on the results of a Terminix inspection report certifying that the house was free from moisture damage. Shortly after her family moved in, she discovered that the report was wrong - - excessive moisture had in fact damaged the roof prior to the Terminix inspection. The roof required immediate replacement. The Virga family now found itself trapped in a house that was falling apart, a situation Terminix could have easily prevented had it properly reported the pre-existing moisture damage. With limited financial resources, and in the face of shunned silence from Terminix, Carla had no choice but to seek recourse from our judicial system.
One would hope that would have been the end of the matter – that Terminix would suffer the pain of an adverse judicial outcome. It seems incredible to imagine, but Terminix defeated Carla and her family after a crucial witness from the California Structural Pest Control Board - who also happened to be a former Terminix employee - failed to appear at trial. Back at square one, Carla took to the Internet, and created a website where frustrated Terminix consumers voiced their shared nightmares.
In the following years, Terminix took to the offensive. First, the corporation ordered Carla to take down the true information posted on her site and to lie about its accuracy. She refused to comply. Terminix then asked for a restraining order, claiming that the website’s derogatory statements constituted defamation. This time around, the courts took Carla’s side, holding that the Terminix-complaint website contained accurate information beneficial to the public interest. Just as Carla had had enough, so now did the courts.
But Terminix wasn’t through, and ServiceMaster, Inc. (Terminix’s parent company) later sued Carla for numerous frivolous claims, including trademark infringement. If Terminix couldn’t scare Carla into keeping quiet, it would force her to spend money on legal expense until she could no longer defend herself. Fortunately, Public Citizen heard of Carla’s story and reached out to her with an offer to provide her free legal services. Once Public Citizen came on board, Carla’s story gained media traction. Several major news networks around the country reported her story.
In the end, Terminix’s intimidation plan backfired: Carla’s cause acquired strength and vigor in direct proportion to Terminix’s bullying retaliation. Terminix’s parent company Servicemaster eventually withdrew the lawsuit against. Carla and her cause triumphed, with the help of internet free speech rights, over this corporate giant.
No legion of Terminix lawyers could impair Carla’s First Amendment free speech rights to share and spread unequivocal truths about alleged fraudulent Terminix practices: her website lives to this day as a vibrant legacy passed on to Campbell Law PC. We at Campbell Law PC are proud to continue the important work that Carla started through this page—informing consumers of fraudulent business practices within the termite control industry.