"OMG, this place suuuuucks."I think most of us have read a nasty Yelp review and decided then and there never to frequent that restaurant, or use that nail salon, or hire those contractors. Did you ever think, though, that the person who left that review could be sued for defamation by the company they've publicly besmirched? Me neither. But, apparently, it happens. Just ask Virginia resident Jane Perez -- she left an honest, yet scathing, one-star review of a contracting company -- and now faces a $750,000 lawsuit.
Perez says that they basically did a crappy job, damaged her home instead of fixed it up, and laments that jewelry of hers went missing. The contractor, on the other hand, claims he lost $300,000 in business due to her online rant, and that there's no one out there to protect small businesses "when people slam their name." He says he did a fine job, and that Perez never paid him.
It's a tangled web, for sure, but what we're left with here is the reminder that there is a difference between freedom of speech and slander.
Of course, if it's found that Perez is telling the truth, the case is moot, but I'll think about this next time I'm reviewing something, be it on Foursquare, Yelp, or Facebook. I thought, as perhaps most people did, that there's nothing dangerous about sharing your honest perceptions of a service you received.
Turns out, though, there's the danger of being served. Perez will likely have to spend thousands on her legal defense, even if she's totally innocent. And, god, think of the stress of it all. Ugh. Just awful.
Experts say they're seeing more and more of these kinds of cases, but the numbers are still relatively low. That said, just, you know, maybe pause before publishing your review and make sure it's free of exaggeration or hyperbole. Otherwise, ah oh. You could be in trooouble.
UPDATE: The judge ordered Perez to take down her Yelp review after portions of her complaint could not be proven.
Were you aware you could be sued for your negative Yelp reviews?
Photo via notionscapitol.com/Flickr