That negative online comment could get you sued
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Be careful what you say online; it could get you sued! That’s happening to a woman in Virginia after she wrote a negative comment on a business.
Jane Perez aired her complaints on contractor Christopher Dietz on Yelp and Angie’s List. Now Dietz is coming after her. He sued Perez for $750,000 on the grounds of defamation.
Husch Blackwell attorney Jason Smith of Springfield says cases like these are rare. However, it doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
“There is nothing inherently wrong with criticizing someone on the Internet or criticizing a business on the Internet as long as you do so in a way that is truthful and accurate. When you overstep that boundary and you lie or exaggerate, or you embellish it in some way, and that impacts the business, that causes them some harm, they absolutely have the right to go after that person for that comment,” Smith said.
It’s easy to type away on a company’s Facebook page or on a Website like Yelp when you are angry. However, there is a right way to gripe and a wrong way to gripe. Smith gave a hypothetical example.
“I have a plumber that I have some sort of complaint or criticism about. What you say, you need to be able to back it up. Don’t lie about it. Don’t embellish the situation. Don’t call the plumber a thief or a crook. Just stick to the facts,” Smith said.
If you think you can beat the system by posting “anonymously,” think again.
“You can go onto Facebook and you can’t create a fake profile for example. You can go onto a Yelp.com and post anonymously. But there is no such thing as anonymity on the Internet. There are mechanisms through which individuals and companies can file lawsuits that can subpoena records and find out who is behind that screen name,” Smith said.