Internet Law

As Sites Like Yelp Increase in Popularity, More Consumers Get Sued for Defamation

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A Virginia woman has been hit with a defamation suit after claiming in an online Yelp review that a contractor damaged her home and possibly stole her jewelry.

Jane Perez called her contractor a “nightmare,” but says now she’s living her own bad dream, the Washington Post reports. Her contractor, Christopher Dietz, says in a suit filed last month that Perez lied about the quality of his work and essentially made false accusations. He says Perez demanded work beyond their agreement and never paid him. Perez denies the accusations and says her reviews were truthful.

“Lawyers say [the suit] is one of a growing number of defamation lawsuits over online reviews on sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List and Trip­Advisor and over Internet postings in general,” the story says. “They say the freewheeling and acerbic world of Web speech is colliding with the ever-growing importance of online reputations for businesses, doctors, restaurants, even teachers.”

Yelp reviews in particular have become a source for lawsuits, the story says. In one suit, a Chicago plastic surgeon sued over a claim that he gave a woman “Frankenstein breasts.”

Some online defamation cases have produced large awards. A California technology company was awarded $1.56 million this year against a blogger who accused the company of cheating business associates. (The Orange County Register has a story.) And a Florida woman won an $11.3 million judgment based on accusations that she was a “crook” and a “con artist.” (USA Today covered the 2006 verdict.)

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