Yelp Review Can Get You Sued!
A what review can get you what?
In the online jungle, more and more people are relying on crowdsourced opinions on what to purchase and where to go for food, shopping and entertainment.
One of the more popular and influential ?opinion and review? sites is Yelp.
The Yelp site , or the company that owns it, Yelp Inc., as described by Wikipedia is ? an American company that operates an “online urban guide” and business review site. Headquartered in San Francisco, Yelp was founded by Jeremy Stoppelman and Russel Simmons in 2004.?
What has gotten Yelp however in the news recently is not just its reach and influence among its readers, but a judicial court case that arose from a ?.yes, a bad review posted in Yelp.
So hold on to your scathing comments about the lousy restaurant or crummy pool guy you just hired, and learn from the experience of a homeowner in Virginia and her home renovation contractor.
Just when the month of January of this year was about to end, a court jury decided on a guilty verdict for Jane Perez, a resident of Virginia who had her home renovated using Christopher Dietz, a local contractor.
Apparently, not only was she not satisfied with the renovation, but she also made accusations that Dietz stole some jewelry when he did the work at her home.
And all this ranting in the Yelp site found her facing a US$ 750 Thousand Dollar defamation lawsuit filed by the contractor.
Although the jury did hand a guilty verdict on the defamation charge, Perez caught a lucky break since the same jury found Christopher Dietz equally guilty of defamation when he responded to Perez with his own harsh comments on the Yelp site.
With both Perez and Dietz found guilty of the same charges, the jury decided to cancel the damages awarded to both.
As one internet columnist, Mandi Woodruff of Yahoo Finance, opined, it seems that indeed, two wrongs do not make a right.
But, more importantly, for the netizens who frequently use review sites like Yelp, is how will this affect them in voicing out their thoughts and opinions on consumer goods and services.
Will anyone who makes a negative comment on a product or service he or she has tried end up in court as well?
And will they be as lucky as Perez to get of the hook so easily?
Paul Alan Levy, a lawyer for Public Citizen, a First Amendment Advocacy Group, is concerned about this situation. He cited the case of Perez where ?The fact that she had to go find a lawyer to defend herself and go all the way to trial is obviously a concern….If you don’t have a pro bono lawyer like she did, it can be quite taxing financially.?
Video: Yelp Must Reveal Names of Defamers (David Pettit / YouTube)
Many businesses who once disregarded any online comments on their product or service are increasingly becoming aware of the influence of the internet in spelling boom or bust for their ventures. A business survey conducted by Woodbury University discovered that 75% of 261 establishments they covered source their customer satisfaction data from online review sites such as Yelp.
Unlike Dietz whose business probably suffered because of the review Perez posted and was not able to get ?compensation?, other establishments have fared better.
Two surgeons from Arizona won a case worth US$ 12 Million Dollars when they sued a patient who set up a full website devoted to accusing these doctors of providing her with an ?unsatisfactory? plastic surgery service.
Yelp, who is in the middle of this issue, has always upheld the right of the site’s users to share their opinions freely, whether it is good, bad or even ugly.
Yelp even provides guidelines on how users can exercise their freedom of speech without landing them in hot water (or in a million dollar lawsuit).
Aaron Schur, Yelp’s senior litigation director, advises business enterprises that ? “Litigation is not a good substitute for customer service. Businesses that try to sue their customers into silence rarely prevail, end up wasting their own time and money and usually bring additional, unwanted attention to the original criticism.?
He added that ? Many states (though, unfortunately not Virginia) have laws designed to further protect consumers from being intimidated or silenced by these types of lawsuits.?
Photo Source: https://www.facebook.com/pages/yelp/73815968732