A Washington D.C. judge ordered a women to take down her negative comments about her contractor on the customer review website, Yelp. This is the latest in a string of cases that make it quite clear that trashing someone’s services online can come dangerously close to crossing the legal line into defamation. The contractor, Christopher Dietz, is suing Jane Perez for rating him an F on Angie’s List, and writing a review on Yelp that implicated him for trespassing, stealing jewelry, and damaging property. Dietz alleges that he lost up to $750,000 because of Perez likening him to a criminal online. The judge ordered Perez to take down the reference to jewelry theft, but has not yet ruled if the review is grounds for a defamation suit. Experts warn that people who write a lot of online reviews should be careful not to accuse others of crimes, and to consider adding insurance to their homeowner policy that covers libel. For an idea of the types of comments to avoid, take a look at these suits that led to litigation.
A Plastic Surgeon and a Negative RateMD.com Review
A plastic surgeon subpoenaed the internet and cable provider Comcast to find out the identity of an anonymous poster who claimed the surgeon’s Vaser Liposuction was malicious. The doctor is planning to sue now that the person’s identity has been revealed.
Chiropracter Complains about Yelp Review
A chiropracter sued Christopher Norberg after Norberg accused the doctor of fraudulent billing practices. The case was settled out of court.
Contractor Sues Over Failure on Angie’s List
Helen Maslona rated contractor All Fields Construction Concrete an F on Angie’s List, and the company sued for lost business because of the rating. The lawsuit looked for $10,000 in damages, but was later dismissed.
Courtney Love’s Trash-Talking Tweets
Courtney Love had a dispute with clothing designer Dawn Simorangkir over clothing bills. In her anger, Love tweeted a series of false accusations against Simorangkir including that she used drugs and lost custody of her child. A judge found Love guilty for a $430,000 settlement. Simorangkir refused to sign a confidentiality agreement so she could broadcast the case and help to make people accountable for their tweets.
The moral of the story is that if you plan to use review websites to post negative reviews, be prepared to put your money where your mouth is.