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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, Interesting)

    by realityimpaired (1668397) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:52PM (#42210493)

    Free speech doesn't mean no consequences. Libel and Slander are two very well known examples of situations where your speech has consequences.

    This will hinge on proving that her statements (particularly about the stolen jewelry) were true. If they were, then she's protected by free speech. If they prove to have been false, then she's screwed.

  • by OzPeter (195038) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @08:00PM (#42210581)

    So where are:

    1. The complaint/lawsuit for restoration of damage to her house?
    2. The complaint/lawsuit for the work that was not done (but apparently billed)?
    3. The police report/lawsuit detailing the theft of the jewelry?

    All of the above are things that should be taken seriously if they actually happened. Complaining on Yelp/Angies List only and not following through in the correct legal channels gives credence to the lawsuit against her.

    So WTF is this doing on /. anyway? This just seems like it is here because it's a typical lawsuit but a computer is involved

  • Re:Was this libel? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @08:30PM (#42210837)

    You're confusing criminal law and civil; as the defendant she's the one with the burden of proof.

    Nitpick: Since this is civil court, she doesn't have to "prove" anything. She just has to present enough evidence to show that her accusations are probably true. A "preponderance of the evidence", is a much lower hurdle than the "no reasonable doubt" standard of criminal court.

  • by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Thursday December 06, 2012 @08:37PM (#42210913) Homepage Journal

    If posting to Yelp is a huge financial risk, the site will quickly die.

    Sadly, it looks like they're going the other way.

    Here's the Yelp page for Dietz Development [yelp.com]. Look at the reviews and you can see that Yelp has been censoring them pretty heavily. All of them are from the last day or two and the review in question has been removed.

    This was a great opportunity for Yelp to stand up for consumer rights and freedoms, but instead they've stuck their head in the sand. Even if they'd put a notice at the top of her review saying that "the statements here are not those of Yelp's, blah blah blah lawyer speak" that would have been fine. However, they've shown they have no backbone and won't stand behind their users.

    What if Slashdot editors deleted comments anytime somebody looked at them wrong; what effect would that have on the quantity and quality of the discussion here? There's only been a tiny handful of times that a comment here has been censored -- hopefully it stays that way.

    I've never used Yelp before because I wasn't real familiar with them. Now that I am I'll never use them in the future.

  • Re:Shrug (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pclminion (145572) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:03PM (#42211173)
    False, my wife was sued for libel and lost, despite her statements being completely true. In fact, the court seemed totally uninterested in whether it was true. It was a jury trial, if that matters.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2012 @09:38PM (#42211427)

    If that kind of review is worth $750,000 in damages then the Internet is boned. I thought the RIAA's damage calculations were bad -- There must be a trillion dollars worth of "harmful" reviews for places on Google Maps alone!

    The damage amount is high for sure, but I thought that was par for the States? But if this is the actual and entire review, I have no sympathy for the woman. Personally if I were interested in hiring Dietz and saw this review I'd ignore it and hope she'd get sued for wasting bandwidth. The review is useless, full of unsubstantiated derogatory opinions and sensationalist remarks like "I had to call the police" and provides zero details about the complaints.

    "My home was damaged' the "work" had to be re-accomplished;" Well how was it damaged? Did they drop a few spots of paint on a lampshade or did they flood her basement? Did Dietz redo the work or did she have to hire another contractor? She should've included the details of the damage in the review to add weight to her opinion.

    "Despite his claims, Dietz was/is not licensed to perform work in the state of VA." Fair enough, that's actually a decent claim and tells me to double-check his status.

    "Further, he invoiced me for work not even performed and also sued me for work not even performed." Again, no details so no way to judge. Was he supposed to replace a light bulb and forgot or he skipped the painting entirely? Did he skip the painting because he's incompetent and a cheat or because she chased him out of the house with a broom?

    "I said that I "didn't want to talk to him," closed the door , and called the police." She called the cops simply because he dared to knock on her door, once? Oh no! That makes her look like an over-reacting nutcase more than anything.

    This is after filing my first ever police report when I found my jewelry missing and Dietz was the only one with a key. Most likely she hid her jewelry somewhere before the renovations and forgot about it. Simply because she called the police doesn't make Dietz guilty, it does make her look like an over-reacting nutcase, again.

    Actually, that last bit about stealing the jewelry is totally uncalled for and people need to learn not to make such unsubstantiated accusations on the internet. If it goes unchecked the entire internet becomes a pile of "well my dad can beat your dad" (more than the current 85%). Based on that last sentence, I'd say she deserves to lose $750k.

  • Re:Shrug (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pclminion (145572) on Friday December 07, 2012 @12:11AM (#42212409)

    How on earth was she supposed to prove it? Let me give the context for this. My wife and I met with a certain kind of medical professional after our first son was born. This person said things to us that we found profoundly disturbing. After deliberating about it, my wife decided to file a complaint with the board which certifies people who work in this profession. It wasn't like badmouthing somebody on the Internet or in the newspaper, it was this formal process. Now obviously, when you file a complaint you have to describe what happened, which my wife did.

    The board apparently studied our complaint and took some kind of action against this person (something mild, I don't remember exactly, but we got something in the mail about it). A couple of months later my wife was served with the lawsuit.

    At the time, we had very little capacity to pay a high-priced lawyer. The person was asking for $150,000! So on a long shot we called our homeowner's insurance company and it turned out they would defend the case under our insurance policy. I have no idea if the attorney sucked, didn't care, or if something else went wrong but the jury found in favor of plaintiff for $5k. Our insurance company paid, but it was a disgusting experience.

    I found out later that this woman has a history of serial lawsuits. Not long after our case ended, she sued the board which had sanctioned her. I know this, because she fucking subpoenaed me as a witness in that case. Did I mention she was representing herself? She asked me a bunch of nutty questions for two hours which I had no idea about -- like asking me to tell her what I thought some email meant, which I had never seen before (it had nothing to do with me or my wife).

    I don't know what happened after that. What a terrible shitty thing it was. Makes you scared to speak up when somebody is abusive to you. We got slimed.

  • by fightinfilipino (1449273) on Friday December 07, 2012 @01:01AM (#42212675) Homepage

    Sadly, it looks like they're going the other way.

    Here's the Yelp page for Dietz Development [yelp.com]. Look at the reviews and you can see that Yelp has been censoring them pretty heavily. All of them are from the last day or two and the review in question has been removed.

    This was a great opportunity for Yelp to stand up for consumer rights and freedoms, but instead they've stuck their head in the sand. Even if they'd put a notice at the top of her review saying that "the statements here are not those of Yelp's, blah blah blah lawyer speak" that would have been fine. However, they've shown they have no backbone and won't stand behind their users.

    What if Slashdot editors deleted comments anytime somebody looked at them wrong; what effect would that have on the quantity and quality of the discussion here? There's only been a tiny handful of times that a comment here has been censored -- hopefully it stays that way.

    I've never used Yelp before because I wasn't real familiar with them. Now that I am I'll never use them in the future.

    that's not quite accurate.

    Yelp uses an automated algorithm to filter out some posts: "How do you decide which reviews to filter? We use filtering software to determine which reviews should be filtered on any given day among the millions that are submitted to the site. The software looks at a wide range of data associated with every review. We invite you to watch this short video for more detail about how it all works." http://www.yelp.com/faq#why_filter [yelp.com]

    as a site dedicated to enabling ordinary people to post reviews about businesses in their own communities, Yelp provides a great service for consumers. but Yelp also has its own concern to try to keep reviews on its site relevant as much as possible. it doesn't serve anyone to allow users to publish reviews that have little to no connection to the actual businesses being reviewed. Yelp's reputation for being a place where you can get low-noise, high-signal reviews is on the line. and having too much noise as compared to actual signal does not serve Yelp's users either, as they won't get a reasonably accurate picture of businesses reviewed on the site.

    i'll acknowledge that Yelp is treading a fine line here. i think they understand that. but to say that Yelp is "undermining consumer rights and freedoms" here is completely unfair and unabashedly silly. filtered posts can still be seen if you click on a link below the reviews. Yelp explains why they have been filtered but still allows users to access said posts.

    and even then, if you go to Dietz Development's page now, there are a slew of negative reviews, completely unfiltered, that have nothing to do with Dietz Development's services or customer relations. most of them are backlash "internet badass" posts shaming Dietz for suing. while allowing people to review businesses like Dietz and provide said reviews online for the public is a general good, allowing for higher noise to signal and for reviews that have little to do with the actual quality of a company is not.

    there was a Florida pizza restaurant President Obama visited during this year's Presidential campaign. the owner of the restaurant was, apparently, a conservative, but he was excited to host the President all the same and even gave Obama a hug. as a result, hundreds of trolls crashed the restaurant owner's Yelp page and posted negative review after negative review [npr.org]. many of the "reviewers" acknowledged never having eaten at the restaurant. some of the "reviewers" had never been to Florida. would you say Yelp should keep all those "noise" posts anyway? i would argue no. the posts were marginally-relevant, if at all, to the actual pizza restaurant, the quality

  • Re:Shrug (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Holladon (1620389) on Friday December 07, 2012 @04:20AM (#42213379)

    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.

    Ahhhhhhh, now I get it. Here I thought you were just an ill-informed, disgruntled anti-lawyer type, but now I see that you're actually a big firm lawyer trying to justify your ludicrous rates. I used to work in a big law firm with lots of people like you. Even thought I liked it, didn't want to get laid off when the recession hit. Years later and working for a small firm that charges actually affordable rates, pays me a lot less, and lets me have as much of a life as I want, I realize now how completely fucking miserable I was in biglaw, as were the vast majority of the other lawyers I worked with.

    If there's any part of you that can still be gotten through to, please listen, friend: it's never too late to get out. I promise you, it's not as scary out here as you think it is. There is life on the other side of the thousand-pound billable hour, and it's pretty goddamned good.

How many hardware guys does it take to change a light bulb? "Well the diagnostics say it's fine buddy, so it's a software problem."

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