Last Update: 01/27/16
Yelp is an online review web site where anyone can post reviews of doctors, lawyers, florists, contractors, etc.. — perhaps you’ve stopped by Yelp to read or post a review.
As it turns out, Yelp is finding its name in all sorts of court records as businesses are filing lawsuits against the online review site for things like defamation (libel, slander) based upon false reviews — and Yelp is itself filing lawsuits against businesses it alleges published false reviews on Yelp.
1. Yelp Online Review Site’s lawsuits against other people
Two examples. In California, a bankruptcy law firm was sued by Yelp for allegedly placing fake positive reviews for the law firm on the site. Yelp is claiming that the lawyer’s employees as well as other lawyers were asked to write good reviews on the Yelp page for the California law firm.
Yelp has also sued Timothy Catron and others for allegedly making money by selling false online Yelp reviews through various sites and/or companies. According to Yelp’s complaint, Yelp has been harmed from fake reviews being placed on Yelp through sites like “BuyYelpReview.com” which Catron and the other defendants have been operating as “online fraud” (quoting the Yelp complaint) for a profit.
2. Lawsuits against Yelp Online Review Site for Defamation
Here’s an example. A New York dentist named Mal Braverman sued Yelp for: (1) defamation in the form of libel and slander; (2) tortious interference with business relations; and (3) tortious interference with contractual relations. The dentist alleged, regarding the defamation claim, that Yelp published two defamatory reviews about his dental practice, written by Yelp users. Braverman also alleged that Yelp removes or “filters out” any positive reviews of his practice, and that Yelp does not investigate reviews and never contacted him for comments on the negative reviews.
Yelp won. Read the case here.
As a publisher, Yelp successfully defended against a defamation action against itself by using the federal protections given by the Communications Decency Act’s Section 230, in what lawyers usually refer to as a “Section 230 case.”
As explained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Section 230 is “the most important law protecting Internet speech” as it allows web sites that host speech from other people (like online review sites as well as social media sites like Facebook or Google+) a legal shield from being held responsible for what people may post or publish on the host site.
So, what to do if you are a victim of defamation of a Yelp online review? You are not without a legal remedy. You can track down the writer of the words (or speaker, if it’s a podcast or video) and sue them.
What Should You Do?
A good piece of advice if you have been harmed by defamation, is to at least speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.
- Can You Sue for a Bad Review? Libel, Slander, and Defamation Lawsuits for Negative Reviews
- Can You Be Sued for an Anonymous Review? Yes. Will They Win? Maybe, Maybe Not.
- Truth as a Defense in Libel and Slander Social Media Claims: Defendants Need to Know How Florida Defamation Law Applies in Their Situation
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.