A judge has dismissed a $1-million libel suit filed in December by a Mercedes-Benz dealer against Tom Armstrong, the Sarasota man who pens the nationally syndicated Marvin comic strip.
Circuit Judge Lee Haworth ruled Wednesday that a series of strips done by the cartoonist last year, which lampooned car dealers and included a reference to "Gouger Fancy Cars," did not defame the Glauser Mercedes dealership.
The comic strips, the judge said, are free speech protected by the First Amendment. Most people would regard a comic strip as satirical or fictional, so it cannot defame a specific car dealer, the judge added.
Armstrong said he was "overjoyed" by the decision. "I can go back to doing what I do _ make people laugh."
Jerry Glauser, who owns the dealership in Sarasota, said he hopes to appeal.
Last spring, Armstrong bought a car at Glauser's dealership for his son. On May 14, Armstrong wrote a letter to Chad Glauser, general sales manager, complaining "what a pain it was doing business with (him)." The artist wrote that he was unhappy with the service and fees. And he said he put together a series of cartoons based on his experience.
The six cartoon strips in question ran in about 400 newspapers in July and August.