An Aspen pet shop’s latest lawsuit over bad online reviews alleges that a former employee of the business made the disparaging comments after he was fired in 2017.
Pet Boutique LLC, which does business as C.B. Paws on the Hyman Avenue mall, filed an amended lawsuit Monday that names Ivan Lustig, a longtime local resident, as the defendant.
The business first sued in March, listing “John Doe” as the defendant, and its attorneys began trying to ferret outthe identity of the person it believes is writing the negative critiques. One clue was a person posting on sites such as Yelp and Google Reviews used the name “Lizzie Gitsul.”
“Gitsul is the defendant’s name spelled backward,” wrote Pet Boutique’s attorney, Jason Buckley of Aspen.
According to the lawsuit, which contains a claim of disparagement, Lustig wrote that the store smells of dog urine, feces and drool. He also allegedly wrote that customers could save money by shopping on amazon.com and chewy.com, and faulted C.B. Paws’ return policy.
“While the reviews were purportedly posted by various individuals, many of the posts had similar themes, verbiage and syntax,” the lawsuit says.
Contact information for Lustig could not be found.
He worked for the business until November 2017, when he was fired after owner Steve Fante received a complaint from a customer regarding Lustig’s behavior. Shortly after being fired, he contacted the city of Aspen’s environmental health department and “made defamatory allegations regarding the sanitary condition of C.B. Paws,” the lawsuit says. The city took no action.
Buckley wrote that at least one of the reviews is associated with a cell-phone number owned by Lustig and that most of the negative scrutiny came from a single location in Aspen.
Lustig’s actions “diminished C.B. Paws’ online rating … and were derogatory to [its] business,” according to the lawsuit. “Lustig published the false statements with malice and with the intent to cause harm to C.B. Paws’ business, to adversely affect [its] online rating, to convince existing and potential clients to withhold business, and to harm C.B. Paws’ pecuniary interests.”
The filing seeks an injunction to stop the defendant from posting anything about the shop.
“C.B. Paws requests that this Court enter a permanent injunction providing that Lustig shall have no rights to publish or otherwise post any reviews of [the] business to any online review site,” Buckley wrote.
He added that measuring potential monetary damages related to lost profits and goodwill are difficult to measure, and the business may seek punitive damages.
Lustig was last in the news in 2015, when a local coffee shop told him he could not enter with his service dog, prompting him to file a civil-rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, The Aspen Times reported.