BMHJ Blog: Legal Information, Resources, & News

Yelp! The return of litigation as a result of internet postings on Yelp.

Patrick Burns, Esquire
March 10th, 2014
By: Patrick Burns, Esquire

The same old story with a surprising result.

A Fairfax County jury reached a surprising decision in late January regarding damages in an online defamation action. The defendant (and counter-plaintiff) hired a Fairfax-based business to make some cosmetic repairs to her property. Dietz Dev., LLC v. Perez, Case No.: 12-16240, (filed October 31, 2012 Fairfax Circuit). After the contractor completed a portion of the work, a disagreement ensued and Ms. Perez, the defendant, allegedly locked the contractor out of the job site. In response, the contractor filed suit to recover for unpaid invoices, but failed to file a court-ordered pleading and lost the matter on summary judgment. Thereafter, Ms. Perez, made a series of allegedly defamatory posts on Yelp and Angie’s List regarding services provided by Dietz. Among other comments posted, Ms. Perez accused Dietz of moral turpitude, causing damage her home, committing trespass, theft and invoicing for work never performed. Dietz claimed such statements cost his business $300,000 in work opportunities, in addition to the damage to his business’s reputation. An injunction prevented Perez from making new statements and $750,000 in damages was requested. In response, Perez filed a counter-claim for defamation against Dietz.

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Think Before You Yelp!

Patrick Burns, Esquire
January 14th, 2014
By: Patrick Burns, Esquire

Online business review websites, such as Yelp and Angie’s List, have become a popular resource when deciding whether to enlist the services of a particular business. In fact, the success and failure of a business can depend on online reviews. It should come as no surprise there have been a number of cases nationwide that allege defamatory postings on Yelp. See, e.g., Yelp, Inc. v. Hadeed Carpet Cleaning, Inc., No. 00116-13-4, 2014 Va. App. LEXIS 1 (Va. Ct. App. Jan. 7, 2014); Sanders v. Walsh, 219 Cal. App. 4th 855 (2013); Wilkerson v. RSL Funding, L.L.C., 388 S.W.3d 668 (Tex. App. Houston 1st Dist. 2011). However, such cases do not prevent negative reviews of businesses, if truthful. On the other hand, individuals should think twice before posting a negative review that contains inaccuracies. Any inaccuracy a business deems harmful could result in a lawsuit with expensive consequences.

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In a Case Arising from the Mass Shooting at Virginia Tech, the Virginia Supreme Court Reaffirmed the High Hurdle (and Foreseeability) to Hold a Property Owner Liable for Crimes of Third Parties.

Dawn E. Boyce, Esquire
Martin Schubert, Esquire
December 17th, 2013
By: Dawn E. Boyce, Esquire and Martin Schubert, Esquire

The facts of Commonwealth v. Peterson, 749 S.E.2d 307, 2013 Va. LEXIS 132 (2013), are readily recognizable. The Plaintiffs were the administrators of two decedents who died in the tragic Virginia Tech mass shooting in 2007. Pursuant to the Virginia Tort Claims Act, the administrators brought a wrongful death action against the Commonwealth of Virginia on the theory that the Commonwealth failed to warn about the potential for criminal acts by third parties.

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Sovereign Immunity No Protection for Sheriff Who Allegedly Caused Rear End Crash

Melissa H. Katz, Esquire
December 15th, 2013
By: Melissa H. Katz, Esquire

While driving two work inmates in a city vehicle to a job site, a sergeant for the sheriff’s department in the City of Chesapeake rear ended another driver. A personal injury action ensued. The defendant sergeant filed a plea in bar arguing that he was protected under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. The trial court disagreed and denied the plea in bar. The court found that routine driving activities are ministerial functions that do not give rise to the cloak of sovereign immunity.

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Photographs Are Worth a Thousand Words: Document a Property Condition Before It Is Materially Changed

Nicholas J. Lawrence, Esquire
December 9th, 2013
By: Nicholas J. Lawrence, Esquire

Business owners performing significant changes to their property should consider photographing the existing condition before making any changes. A recent case in the City of Virginia Beach illustrates the potential problem when improvements are made without documenting the existing conditions. In 2006, an elderly patron of a parking garage tripped and fell on the 4″ curb beside an elevator loading platform. About six months later, with no reports of any prior problems, the curb was painted yellow as part of an effort to improve overall visibility inside the garage. Eighteen months later, the property owner learned of the fall for the first time when a lawsuit was filed.

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This blog and the information provided has been prepared by Bancroft, McGavin, Horvath & Judkins, P.C. (“BMHJ”) for information purposes only and is not intended nor to be construed as legal advice. This blog may contain the opinions of the members and associates of this firm on various legal issues and is not legal advice. Read More