Friday, January 31, 2014

Yelp and Angie's List defamation case involving home repair contractor ends in draw with zero award, but still a warning about online review posting activity

A Fairfax County jury ruled today that both the contractor Chrsitopher Dietz and customer Jane Perez, who had written scathing reviews on Yelp, had defamed each other than that the net award was zero.  The verdict was a draw.
But legally, the case may set a precedent for the idea that an ordinary customer may indeed be liable for unfavorable comments about a contractor or business.  The problem remains that ordinary customers may not have the resources to defend themselves against SLAPP suits.  But smaller contractors may also generally not have the financial strength to file such suits anyway.
The Washington Post has a story by Justin Jouvenal here  
WJLA has a similar brief report but says that the case can affect what people post online. Perez has taken down the Yelp posting, but the Angie’s List posting (which might not be as graphic) will still be the subject of a further hearing.  WJLA showed pictures of what Perez claims was unfinished work in the townhouse. 
Another case in Virginia involving anonymous reviewers needs to be watched closely.

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