Be careful what you post online-it might just come back to bite you. In the case of unhappy home repairs customer Jane Perez, her bad review of a contractor on Yelp and Angie’s List left $750,000 worth of bite marks on her. Ouch. Perez, a Virginia homeowner, retained the services of contractor Dietz Development to work on her house. Perez was less than happy with the work done by the company so she goes on Yelp and Angie’s List and posts a very negative review. Just how negative? She accused the company of trespassing, stealing jewelry from her, and damaging her house. As you can probably expect, the contracting company’s owner Christopher Dietz says that this construction firm lost around $300,000 over the bad review. He has filed a $750,000 lawsuit against Perez. Dietz won a major legal victory when the judge handling the case, Judge Thomas FortKort, ruled in favor of the plaintiff and issued a temporary injunction. This injunction forces Perez to remove the part of her online reviews which referred to Dietz’ company stealing jewelry. According to papers filed with the lawsuit, a police investigation was conducted and there was no connection between the missing items and Dietz or his firm.
Perez’ attorney objected to the injunction because it amounted to the judge ‘editing’ the online reviews posted by Perez. The defendant’s side frames the issue as more about freedom of speech. Perez’ lawyer argues that the injunction has a chilling effect on free speech since now people won’t be as encouraged to talk freely about their experiences with certain business establishments. Dietz’ lawyer argued that leaving the language online will result in continuous and ongoing harm to the Dietz’ reputation and that of his company which he said has already suffered from the false charges to the tune of $300,000.