RICHMOND, Va. — In August 2012, a Virginia woman’s posted unfavorable reviews of a local contractor, and he sued for defamation. Though he was originally granted a preliminary injunction, a Virginia court recently removed that order because the prior judgment was found to be unwarranted — since the reviews were censored before the site determined that her claims were false or libelous, according to court filings with the Virginia Supreme Court.
The woman, Jane Perez, posted several complaints on Yelp and angieslist.com, another review site, that Christopher Dietz invoiced for work not performed, lacked a Virginia contractor’s license and BBB-accreditation, among other charges. While the judge previously ordered that the content be removed, on Dec. 28, 2012, that ruling was reversed because “the preliminary injunction was not justified.”
Paul Alan Levy, an attorney for Public Citizen, told allthingsd.com about the decision. “It shouldn’t be easy to take down speech that you don’t like,” he said. “You can’t get injunction against defamation. If it’s really defamation, you get damages.”
Yelp also told allthingsd.com in a statement: “Consumer freedom of speech provides an important public service, protected by law. Yelp provides a valuable contribution to this dialogue by providing a two-way platform for consumers to share their experiences and for businesses to respond to their customers. Courts have consistently ruled that consumers have the right to share their truthful experiences. As a result, businesses that choose to sue their customers to silence them rather than address their comments, rarely prevail and often bring additional unwanted attention to the original criticism.”