A recent NPR article exposed the details of a current lawsuit involving a negative Yelp review. The $750,000 lawsuit stemmed from a dissatisfied customer, Jane Perez, who wrote a negative Yelp review about her hired construction company, Dietz’s company, Dietz Development LLC. In the review Perez explained how dissatisfied she was with the service and claimed that staff of the construction company had stolen jewelry during the time spent working on her house.
The defendant, Christopher Dietz, sued for defamation claiming that much of Perez’s review caused damage to his business. Even though one lawyer noted that one poor review is unlikely to cause a company any actual damage Perez was still mandated by the court to remove all defaming parts of her various reviews on Yelp.
Though these types of cases have been a rarity thus far it’s very possible that new legislature will be developed in the future to help cases like this become more prevalent. Thus, this verdict leaves various consumers around the world wary of voicing their true opinion(s) in fear of being sued.
This case has brought to light one’s first amendment rights to speak freely and voice opinions. However, it also emphasizes how these free words can potentially get us into trouble. Though only parts of Perez’s review were deemed defamatory and ordered to be taken down (the others were allowed to remain posted) the verdict still emphasizes the risk one is taking the moment they post a negative review on Yelp (and websites like it).
On a positive note, a 2011 study showed that positive Yelp reviews help businesses gain a potential 5-9% revenue increase.