Free Speech Isn’t Free for Yelp Reviewer

An internet flame war had real-world consequences for the Virginia woman whose contractor sued her for her bad reviews on Angie’s List and Yelp.

Dietz Development filed a $750,000 lawsuit against Jane Perez after she alleged that the contractor had trespassed on her property, damaged her home, and even stolen her jewelry. “Bottom line do not put yourself through this nightmare of a contractor,” she wrote.

Owner Christopher Dietz said the review damaged his company’s reputation, costing his company $300,000 in lost business.

Judge Thomas FortKort sided with Dietz Development on Wednesday, ordering Perez to edit the review and remove the part about the stolen jewelry. The judge also granted a temporary injunction in favor of the contractor.

But the two parties were already embroiled in a legal battle when the negative reviews were posted. Dietz had filed suit against the woman under his own name in July 2011, claiming unpaid invoices.

In 2012, Perez posted to Yelp and Angie’s List that Dietz had “invoiced me for work not even performed and also sued me for work not even performed” and that she had “won on summary judgement (meaning that his case had no merit). This is after filing my first ever police report when I found my jewelry missing and Dietz was the only one with a key.”

She denied that her statements were false and defamatory, but court records show that Dietz has been charged for neither trespassing nor theft.

While lawyers say that business owners have a hard time winning defamation cases related to online reviews, which are usually protected under the First Amendment, other experts say that the possibility of being dragged to court for a negative review may deter consumers from sharing information, according to the Washington Post.

Readers, do you think Perez’ review served the public interest or merely fanned the flames?

Image by Cartoonresource via Shutterstock.

 

Related Stories
Mediabistro Course

Content Marketing 101

Content Marketing 101Almost 60% of businesses use some form of content marketing. Starting December 8, get hands-on content marketing training in our online boot camp! Through an interactive series of webcasts, content and marketing experts will teach you how to create, distribute, and measure the success of your brand's content! Sign-up before November 10 to get $50 OFF with early bird pricing. Register now!