A judge ruled Wednesday that a Fairfax County, Va., woman has to pull down part of a negative online review of a man who did repair work on her home.
The temporary injunction is of great interest to those who claim websites like Yelp and Trip Advisor harm their businesses.
The judge ruled that Jane Perez can absolutely go online and talk about the home repair job, but she cannot imply that her contractor stole from her.
Attorney James Bacon displayed page after page of what his client claims were botched repairs at her Fairfax County townhouse in 2011, including a toilet seat, a door hinge, what are said to be numerous bits of hair and dirt in a refinished floor, damaged windowsills, and trash left behind.
Perez posted negative reviews about contractor Christopher Dietz on Yelp and Angie's List. But she also stated that some of her jewelry disappeared and that Dietz had the only other key to her house.
Dietz took Perez to court, claiming the review damaged his business. He is suing her for $750,000.
“People have the right to write a review that is honest and truthful,” Dietz said. “If it’s negative but it’s true, that’s fair. But when it’s negative and untrue, that’s not fair.”
Perez says it’s a matter of free speech.
After a three-hour hearing at the Fairfax County Courthouse, the judge said he felt the missing jewelry comments unfairly implied Dietz was a thief and ordered them removed from existing web reviews and not mentioned further.
“If we need to, we will appeal to make sure that people are not afraid to speak out and are not afraid to say what happens to them and what their experiences are for fear of being brought in to a very expensive lawsuit,” Bacon said.
A date for the defamation case has not been set.