A woman facing defamation charges over a Yelp review has been ordered to remove portions of her scathing feedback as the trial gets underway. Per The Washington Post, Jane Perez is being sued by Dietz Development for $750,000 after posting reviews on Yelp and Angie's List that accuse the contractors of both shoddy workmanship and jewelry theft. A police investigation revealed no conclusive evidence that Dietz employees had removed valuables from her home, yet Perez left the damning accounts visible on both sites.
The First Amendment only gets you so far
Dietz says those harsh words have directly caused the company to lose out on new work endeavors. Accordingly, it's asking for significant damages due to the lasting influence Perez's words have had on its reputation with customers. On Wednesday a judge issued a preliminary injunction ordering Perez to remove any aspects of the review that label Dietz's employees as thieves. As of today her review appears to be hidden entirely. In fact, it seems the business page for Dietz Development is undergoing heavy policing at the moment: currently only two reviews can be found, with one slamming the company for taking things to court.
Yelp, Angie's List, and other review sites are generally protected from direct litigation thanks to the Communications Decency Act, but users remain susceptible to claims of defamation and other falsehoods. In Virginia, where the suit was filed, a defendant can be found liable for defamation if he or she states, as if it were fact, a false claim about a person or business that negatively impacts their reputation. Multiple lawsuits have cropped up throughout the country in recent years, including one case where a dentist sued two patients for what she believed were libelous reviews.