The company sued the woman, Chelsea Tubbs, for defamation, libel, slander and other violations.
CANTON — A Massillon woman has been ordered to pay two local companies $21,500 in damages because of comments she posted on a now-closed Facebook page.
The companies — Liberty HealthShare and Cost Sharing Solutions, both based in Jackson Township — contend the comments cost them business and revenue. They sued the woman, Chelsea Tubbs, for defamation, libel, slander and other violations.
Although separate companies, Cost Sharing Solutions is a vendor for Liberty HealthShare, which is a ministry that accepts monthly membership fees and shares the money with members who need it to pay medical bills.
Liberty HealthShare formed in 2014 after aligning with the Gospel Light Mennonite Church Medical Aid Plan, which was based in Virginia. Health sharing isn't the same as medical insurance, but the service helped members comply with requirements of the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — to have health care coverage.
Over the past five years Liberty HealthShare has grown rapidly. It has close to 300 employees and owns two office buildings in Jackson Township.
Problems surfaced during 2019 with members complaining it was taking months for Liberty HealthShare to pay medical bills. Last year, the Ohio attorney general's offices received 107 complaints against Liberty, and more than 30 of those cases remain open. Meanwhile, a Better Business Bureau website lists more than 500 complaints about the company.
The lawsuit Liberty HealthShare filed against Tubbs in July contends her Facebook page — called Liberty Health Members: Uncensored — and comments fueled the company's problems. Cost Sharing Solutions filed a similar lawsuit against Tubbs in June. Both companies demanded that Tubbs stop posting comments and that the page be shut down.
Tubbs initially ignored requests to shut down the Facebook page, which led to the lawsuits in Stark County Common Pleas Court. When Tubbs failed to respond to the lawsuits, Judge Taryn Heath and Judge Natalie Haupt issued default judgments and found Tubbs guilty of contempt of court. In October, Tubbs complied with court orders and removed the Facebook page.
Tubbs asked both judges to reverse the default judgments, but Heath and Haupt issued recent rulings upholding their decisions.
Cost Sharing Solutions claimed Tubbs' posts forced the company to spend thousands on a data theft investigation and damaged the reputation of an executive vice president. Haupt determined that Tubbs' postings prompted the internal investigation and ordered her to pay $14,500 in damages, along with $2,000 in damages to the employee.
Liberty HealthShare claimed it has lost 450,000 members since July and estimated Tubbs' posts caused 20% to 25% of those members to leave. Heath said there was insufficient evidence to prove the claim, but did determine that Tubbs' posts hurt employee morale and led to increased complaints by members. Heath ordered Tubbs pay Liberty HealthShare damages totaling $5,000.
Liberty HealthShare, meanwhile, told members that it formed a "member resolution team" to help members who have experienced delays getting medical services bills paid. It also told members it has formed an advisory board to address areas where the company has fallen short, including member service and efficiency.
Liberty HealthShare declined to comment on the case. Lawyers for Cost Sharing Solutions didn't return phone calls seeking comment.
In a text message, Tubbs said she respects the court's decision and thanked the judges for hearing her case.
Reach Edd Pritchard at 330-580-8484 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @epritchardREP.