Virginia's highest court reversed a judge's order that a northern Virginia woman remove negative online reviews of a home contractor.
The Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and Public Citizen said Wednesday that the Supreme Court of Virginia has thrown out the preliminary injunction issued in Fairfax County Circuit Court. The groups had appealed the judge's order, saying it violated both the First Amendment and Virginia law.
Jane Perez is being sued over comments she posted on the Internet regarding Dietz Development LLC, implying the contractor stole items from her home. The contractor claims the reviews posted on Yelp and Angie's List were false and cost him $300,000 in business. He's suing for defamation and is seeking $750,000.
Last month, a judge ordered Perez to delete some accusations and barred her from repeating them in new posts while the lawsuit is pending. The judge ruled that Perez can talk about the home repair job online but cannot imply that the contractor stole from her. She had stated that some of her jewelry disappeared and that Christopher Dietz had the only other key to her house.
In its one-page ruling, a three-judge panel of the state Supreme Court tossed out the preliminary injunction, saying it wasn't justified and didn't specify the time that it would be effective.
In a statement, ACLU Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg, who is representing Perez, said Dietz Development will still have the opportunity to try to prove in court that he was wronged by Perez's speech, but “the court cannot suppress her speech in the meantime.”
A telephone message left at Dietz Development was not immediately returned.