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The Courts Your Rights Online

Virginia Woman Is Sued For $750,000 After Writing Scathing Yelp Review 424

Posted by samzenpus
from the sticks-and-stones dept.
First time accepted submitter VegetativeState writes "Jane Perez hired a construction company and was not happy with the work they did and alleged some of her jewelry was stolen. She submitted reviews on Yelp and Angie's List, giving the company all F's. The contractor is now suing her for $750,000. From the article: 'Dietz, the owner of Dietz Development, filed the Internet defamation lawsuit filed last month, stating that "plaintiffs have been harmed by these statements, including lost work opportunities, insult, mental suffering, being placed in fear, anxiety, and harm to their reputations." Perez's Yelp review accused the company of damaging her home, charging her for work that wasn't done and of losing jewelry. The lawsuit follows an earlier case against Perez, which was filed in July 2011 by Dietz for unpaid invoices. According to the recent filing, the two were high school classmates.'"
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Virginia Woman Is Sued For $750,000 After Writing Scathing Yelp Review

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  • Re:Shrug (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Raven42rac (448205) * on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:53PM (#42210499)
    Correct, it has to both be false and malicious.
  • by timeOday (582209) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:59PM (#42210575)
    If posting to Yelp is a huge financial risk, the site will quickly die.
  • by alen (225700) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @08:07PM (#42210641)

    was the contractor convicted of the crime?
    did she win a civil lawsuit for the home damage?

    No? then she deserves to be sued. You can't bad mouth people and spread false information about them without being able to prove it

  • Re:Shrug (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Keith111 (1862190) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @08:08PM (#42210649)
    And if it's not, behold the dreaded Streisand effect.
  • SLAPP (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pwizard2 (920421) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @08:10PM (#42210671)
    This sounds like a S.L.A.P.P. suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation). Basically, if someone fucks you over and you speak out about it, they sometimes retaliate by suing you. The plaintiff gambles on the likelihood that the victim will just slink away rather than go through an emotionally-damaging (and expensive) legal battle and the bad guy basically wins. These lawsuits are weapons... it's not about justice.
  • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @08:17PM (#42210715)

    Why would they do that? That would be an open invitation for every rival organization in town to post patently false statements about every other organization, all without having to concern themselves with the fact that they're engaging in libel. Placing the burden on the reviewer is the right way to handle this, since it ensures that there is pressure on them to only report facts that are accurate representations of what took place. It's work fine up until now, but without that liability, everything would fall apart.

  • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @08:19PM (#42210731)

    Online reviews are a pretty big part of the internet. Yelp is one of the most popular websites on the internet.

    If writing a review or using Yelp can get you sued for $750k then that would have huge ramifications for internet users and prominent internet companies like Yelp.

    It also illustrates the interesting new territory we enter where users are demanding the rights of "media" and being granted publishing rights but not educated in the rules and practices that protect you as a publisher. Part of breaking down and democratizing the access to global access and speech is that suddenly everyone is a publisher not just from a power standpoint but also from a legal and liability standpoint.

  • Re:Shrug (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @08:21PM (#42210757)

    Fortunately some of our laws were made during the brief time when the government was run by the people.

    When was that? Or do you mean run by the people who were white male landowners who didn't pick the losing side in a recent war?

  • Re:Shrug (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @08:53PM (#42211087) Homepage Journal

    The plaintiff is asking the government to force her to pay them money as a result of her speech.

  • Re:Shrug (Score:5, Insightful)

    by curunir (98273) * on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:06PM (#42211203) Homepage Journal

    The important part is that the reviewer is being sued. This is the way this stuff is supposed to work. Too often we see stories here on /. where the online service provider is being sued.

    Kudos to the plaintiff in this case for not suing Yelp and Angie's List...regardless of who's in the right, the right two parties are in court.

  • Re:Shrug (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Holladon (1620389) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:26PM (#42211349)

    Lawyers in the UK aren't free, and there are plenty of lower-cost lawyers in the US. It is true that court costs have been going up as government funding for the courts goes down, creating barriers to access to justice for plaintiffs and defendants alike -- perhaps somewhat ironically, this is in part because the courts are an easy target due to the blithely-swallowed meme that America is particularly litigious, and/or that civil litigation is some kind of ticket to easy street. And it is certainly also true that big fish sometimes play dirty tricks like burying the other side in paperwork to strong-arm a settlement, but, again, that's not inherent to the US system, and a clever lawyer can find cost-effective ways to protect his or her client's interests.

    But perpetuating the meme that there is no real justice in the US is precisely the sort of thing that allows the politicians to get away with undercutting the justice system. The public doesn't trust judges or lawyers, so the politicians have an easy target when it's time for budget negotiations, and the entire civil justice system suffers for it. So funny enough, by disparaging the US court system (without offering any actual facts, statistics, or comparative surveys of US versus UK litigation, naturally), you're perpetuating the ignorant, unfair stereotypes about it that eventually result in actual harm to overall justice. But hey, what do you care -- not like you're an American who's gonna be hurt by it, right?

  • Re:Shrug (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:49PM (#42211511)

    Well done, my reply would have been much snarkier.

    Let's play a game: name an inspirational figure from history, and lets all find a way to tear them down.

  • Re:Shrug (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BasilBrush (643681) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @10:55PM (#42211969)

    No, she doesn't. The person bringing the suit (the construction company) has to prove that what she said is false.

    You are mistaken as regards libel. If she made an allegation on a matter of fact, she has to be able to show it is true. It's not up to him to show it was false.

    You know, the whole innocent until proven guilty thing?

    Yes, we all know it. It's for criminal law, not civil law. Libel is civil law.

  • Re:Shrug (Score:4, Insightful)

    by russotto (537200) on Friday December 07, 2012 @12:55AM (#42212647) Journal

    Lawyers in the UK aren't free, and there are plenty of lower-cost lawyers in the US.

    You know what you call the party who hires a "lower-cost" lawyer? The LOSER. You may as well not show up and lose by default, at least then you don't have to pay the lawyer.

    But perpetuating the meme that there is no real justice in the US is precisely the sort of thing that allows the politicians to get away with undercutting the justice system.

    It's not just a meme.

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