EDWARDSVILLE — A couple who owns a Wood River vehicle wraps and window-tinting business are suing a Roxana woman over defamatory Facebook and other online posts challenging one of the owners' Native American heritage and claiming the two are in an abusive relationship.
The posts made by Heather L. Humphrey were false and defamatory and have caused business and personal harm to Fenix 5ive and its owners, Tracy Ross and Shane Moore, who are married, according to the complaint filed Feb. 22 in Madison County Circuit Court.
"The defendant's statements are not opinion and are not capable of innocent construction," the complaint says.
Moore and Ross are seeking more than $50,000 for each count in the five-count complaint, in addition to punitive damages and an injunction to stop Humphrey from posting defamatory statements.
Plaintiffs Ross and Moore live in Edwardsville, according to court documents. Moore is a professional writer whose projects include television, graphic novels and song lyrics, according to Fenix 5ive's website. Ross has a background in nursing and started a T-shirt company, according to the website. Ross and Moore collaborated in 2015 to purchase a tinting and graphics business, Guardian Graphics, which led to the founding of Fenix 5ive, the website and court documents said.
As part of the purchase agreement, Ross and Moore claim they acquired exclusive distribution rights for a window-tinting product call "Tint Slime." In October 2016, Fenix 5ive began to repackage Tint Slime as "Spider Spit" for use in vehicle-wrap applications, marketing it through the Amazon business site Geek Details.
Later that same month, Humphrey, who is acquainted with Guardian Graphics' former owner, posted on Facebook suggesting that Spider Spit was unsafe. That post, Ross and Moore's complaint says, "was intended to harm sales of Spider Spit and has harmed the business relationship between Fenix 5ive and Geek Details."
Humphrey also has made Facebook posts that attack Moore's Native American heritage, suggesting Moore's father is not Native American and claiming Moore was abusing Ross. "This statement is false and was intended to financially harm Mr. Moore," the complaint said. Humphrey's online defamation continued into this year, which led Fenix 5ive Drafting, licensed by Fenix 5ive and by which Fenix 5ive receives revenue, to terminate its relationship with Fenix 5ive on Jan. 11.
"Defendant's per se defamatory statements to a broad audience on Facebook were intended to produce a general loss of business to Mr. Moore as an author and were publicized to potential customers of Mr. Moore's books," the complaint says. "Defendant's defamatory statements regarding Mr. Moore's heritage and alleged criminal abuse of his wife were false and were made with actual malice, intending to harm Mr. Moore's business relationships, financial interests and reputation."