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Lawyer to pay up over Web defamation

A self-proclaimed "guru of drunk-driving law" is ordered to pay $1 million to a rival after he posted negative comments on his Web site.

A California man who calls himself "the guru of drunk-driving law" must pay $1 million to a rival lawyer in a Web defamation case.

A Los Angeles jury ruled this week that Edward "Fast Eddie" Kuwatch posted false and defamatory statements about Lawrence Taylor, a competing drunk-driving defense lawyer, on his Web site.

Kuwatch--who's also the Libertarian candidate for attorney general--called the lawyers working for Taylor poorly trained and inexperienced. Kuwatch also refused to take down negative comments about Taylor and other lawyers unless people who complained about the postings bought a copy of his book.

"Mr. Taylor's reputation was taking a severe beating for no reason," said Gerald Schneeweis, an attorney for law firm Morris Polich & Purdy, who represented Taylor.

Schneeweis said that after Kuwatch replaced direct references to Taylor with more vague mentions, revenue at Taylor's law firm more than doubled.

After a nine-day trial and two days of deliberation, the jury awarded Taylor $500,000 for loss of reputation and $500,000 in lost income.

Although defamation cases are not unusual, the Web can change the stakes, providing a unique opportunity for critics to reach thousands, if not millions, of people. "If you say something defamatory, it can reach a lot more people and have a lot more of an effect," Schneeweis said.

Kuwatch did not immediately respond to a request for comment.