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Because of her reviews, Christopher Dietz, the contractor, filed a defamation suit for $750,000. He got the judge to order Jane Perez to revise the reviews. Recently, the VA Supreme Court reversed that decision. It now says that the reviews should not be concealed, and if they were defamatory, the plaintiff should focus on getting monetary damages.
How Reviews Affect a Business
Before the Internet age, any kind of critique is mainly a journalist’s previews. Editors and lawyers reviewed them for accuracy and fairness. Non-journalists, on the other hand, who want to make a complaint about a certain business or person, convey their views and thoughts through word of mouth, making it difficult to reach a bigger audience and do much damage. Today, obviously, everyone is a critic. Businesses rely on the opinion of the masses. The crowd-sourced opinion can either help a company to make or lost money. Certainly, bad reviews can have a great impact on a business’ bottom line.
Defamatory Lawsuit: The Court’s Ruling
In Dietz’s lawsuit, he claimed that Perez’s reviews cost him a considerable amount of lost business and harmed his reputation. He also said that Perez’s reviews were not true as he did his job satisfactorily and billed her only for the job that he did. He also denied Perez’s allegation that he or his worker took her jewelry. He also claimed that Perez wanted him to perform a job for free and refuses to pay him.
In the lower court, Dietz got his victory by persuading the judge to order Jane Perez to revise her reviews. However, the ACLU, a civil liberty group, were outraged by the judge’s decision and argued that the order violated the defendant’s first amendment rights. Later on December, the VA Supreme Court agreed with the group and ordered that if Perez’s reviews proved to be false, defamatory, and injured Dietz’s reputation, the plaintiff has the right to collect monetary damages.
Under the federal law, websites like Angie’s List and Yelp are shielded from defamation suit. Yet, people like Perez are lawfully responsible for anything that they write, and one can file a lawsuit against them through an internet defamation lawyer. When people air their grievances, they typically don’t think about this scenario. In fact, when Perez posted her reviews online, she told the Washington Post that she never thought that she will end up in court or get hooked for thousands of money in legal fees and monetary damages.
The VA Supreme Court ruling makes a good defense for the people’s right to express their views online. However, it is also a good reminder that anyone who crosses the boundary may have to pay a serious amount of money.
Image Credit: SalFalko
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