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.

The jury deliberated for eight hours after the conclusion of the five-day trial and found both sides were liable for defamation. However, the jury awarded no damages to either side. See http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/in-closely-watched-yelp-case-jury-finds-dual-victory/2014/01/31/2d174580-8ae5-11e3-a5bd-844629433ba3_story.html.

Thus, please let this case serve as a lesson and think before you Yelp (and Angie’s List). And, if you do so, you may want to make sure your comments won’t serve as the basis of a defamatory action.

Disclaimer

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