Tort Law

After F Grade, Firm Sues Better Business Bureau in Federal Court Over Rating System

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A law firm given a F grade last year by the Better Business Bureau of Central Florida for a claimed pattern of unresolved client complaints is firing back.

The KEL law firm has filed a federal lawsuit in Orlando against the local BBB and related defendants, contending that its business has been damaged by a biased review, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

The firm, which handles a high volume of foreclosure defense and loan modification matters, says the client complaints on which the BBB focused represent only a tiny fraction of its 25,000 cases. “Many of the complaints forwarded to the BBB were baseless in nature and only lodged as an attempt by clients to harass KEL for situations in which the clients had unreasonable expectations,” the suit contends.

It seeks compensatory, special and punitive damages for business defamation or disparagement and false advertising, contending that the F grade resulted from a biased review in contravention of the BBB’s claimed policy in its promotional material.

The article doesn’t include any comment from the defendants. However, Joseph W. Little, an emeritus law professor at the University of Florida, said the BBB review is likely to be viewed as opinion, rather than a false statement for which defamation damages can be awarded, unless the law firm can show the defendant acted with reckless negligence.

“The BBB has [a] common-law right to express fair comment and honest opinion based on true facts,” he told the newspaper. “If it does that, then it is protected speech and opinion, even though it is not the opinion the law firm would want them to have.”

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