Online Defamation Case Study: Zookeeper v. Yelper

online defamation lawsuit: petting zoo owner v. Yelper
Will a petting zoo owner win his Internet libel lawsuit?

It’s the online defamation case of the animal farm owner verses the animal affairs activist!

Steven Vidmar, owner of Friendly Farms – a petting zoo and pony ride animal provider – sued Erika Gannon-Hughes for defamation. Yelp libel, to be precise. He says she knowingly lied about his animal farm in a concerted effort to ruin his business; she says she speaks the truth, and nothing but the truth.

Why Did The Animal Farm Sue The Reviewer For Online Defamation?

For thirty years, USDA licensed Friendly Farms has been providing four-legged friends to petting zoos, pony rides and other types of animal-related entertainment events.

Erika Gannon-Hughes, however, is not a Friendly Farms fan. On Yelp!, she let her feelings rip, offering:

“In all honesty, 1 star seems too generous of a rating. I know firsthand that these animals are severely abused.”


“The majority of them have lice, are ridden with parasites, are LONG overdue for a hoof trimming, and are ALL underfed,” continued the review, according to the lawsuit. “The owners of this company are nothing but cruel, heartless and shady. They are in it for the $$$ and nothing else. Please do not support this company!”

According to available reports, Yelp did remove Ganoon-Hughes’ comments, but Friendly Farms is still moving ahead with an online defamation lawsuit. And the quasi-zoo wants more than $50,000 in damages.

What Friendly Farms Will Have To Prove To Win This Yelp! Defamation Lawsuit

The main question: what will Steven Vidmar have to prove to win this Internet defamation lawsuit?


  1. That the negative statements were about him or his business – which is easy to prove since the comments appear on the Friendly Farm’s Yelp! page;
  2. That the statements are false and caused material harm – bank records that show a decline in business since the review went live, or affidavits from clients or potential clients saying that they chose not to do business with Friendly Farms because of the post, should suffice.
  3. That the defendant purposefully or negligently published the information – Friendly Farms would have to present evidence that the defendant either knew what she was lying and published it anyway, or the animal farm must present a cogent argument that the defendant had every reason to know that what she wrote was untrue.

Are You Dealing With An Internet Defamation Situation?

Online defamation is becoming more common. If Internet libel has caused you hardship, and you’re interested in taking legal action, get in touch with Kelly / Warner Law. We are a top-rated firm, with AV-rated lawyers who focus on Internet defamation.

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