Can I Sue Someone Over A Bad Review on Yelp!?

yelp! defamation
Can you sue someone for defamation if they leave a bad review of your company on Yelp!?

Homeowner v. Contractor is a tale as old as time. Books have been written and movies made about the battles between people who build homes and the people who live in them. So, as you might imagine, home development lawsuits are a dime a dozen. One such case is currently being heard in Virginia. Contractor Christopher Dietz is suing one of his clients, Jane Perez of Fairfax, for defamation over a Yelp! review of his company.

According to reports, Perez and Dietz were high school classmates. When Perez bought a townhouse, she contracted Dietz to work on her home.

It didn’t go well.

Perez accused Dietz of ruining her house and generally not delivering on contract promises. Following the present-day playbook for airing discontent, Perez went to Yelp! After detailing her experience and opinions, Perez ended her missive thusly: “bottom line do not put yourself through this nightmare of a contractor.” She also intimated that Dietz “was the only one with a key” to her home during a time when some jewelry went missing; Perez also suggested Dietz trespassed. Dietz, however, was never brought up on theft or trespassing charges.

Long story short, Dietz filed a $750,000 defamation lawsuit against Perez, arguing he lost $300,000 worth of business as a result of her Yelp! reviews. He also asked for a preliminary injunction that will keep Perez from writing any more reviews about his business until the matter is resolved.

On Wednesday of last week, a judge agreed with Dietz and ordered Perez to take down any comments alleging theft or discussing the legal action at hand.

Why Isn’t Yelp! Responsible For Defamatory Reviews On Their Website?

You may be wondering: why isn’t Yelp! Liable for the reviews on their website? Answer: safe harbor protections outlined in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Basically, Section 230 protects website operators from being held responsible for material posted on their site by third parties.

That said, if a website operator promotes defamatory material on their site, or raises its profile in some manner, they may be held liable for libel, because doing such is essentially creating new, possibly defamatory, material.

Review Backlash: How Leaving A Bad Review Can Hurt You Too

The urge to alert fellow consumers about a bad service or company is strong for many people, but it could end up backfiring – which is exactly what happened to Jane Perez. In her quest to air what she felt were Dietz’s wrong-doings, Perez ended up doing a little damage to her own online reputation. How? Well, since Dietz responded to her original diatribe on Yelp!, his reaction to her post was the first thing that showed up when you googled her name. As a result, she removed the original message.

If you want to sue someone for defaming you on an Internet review site, get in touch with Kelly / Warner today. Our legal practice focuses on Internet defamation and we’ve handled many slander and libel cases. Get in touch today to get your business back on track.

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