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Reviews: What's the Difference Between Libel & Opinion? $350K in Damages


Joined
Jun 28, 2012
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There's a fine line between public opinion and libel.
This couple crossed that line and has to pay $350,000 in damages.

Story from Jen and SEM Post:

<a href="http://www.thesempost.com/couple-to-pay-350k-in-damages-for-false-yelp-review/">Couple to Pay $350k in Damages for False Yelp Review</a>

Have you ever left a bad Yelp review with false information? You might want to rethink doing that in the future after a couple was ordered to pay $350,000 over false reviews they left for an attorney.

The divorcing couple, Copia Blake and Peter Birzon left reviews that were not only opinion but that crossed the line to libel, as their defamatory reviews accused the wife’s lawyer of not just overcharging for legal fees, but swapping out the original contracts to charge 4 times the agreement’s amount.
Interesting case. I guess if their facts had been accurate the negative reviews would not have been considered libel, but just public opinion. It was the stretching of the truth or lying that got them in trouble.

Curious... if this was your client, would you have recommended them taking this to court???
 
Joined
Oct 25, 2013
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I saw that and thought about posting it too... really interesting story.

I know a pretty pitiful amount about navigating the legal system, and I'd never even dream of giving a client advice about legal matters, but I'd maybe send them this article if they asked.

It seems like the wild west with reviews in a lot of ways... I've seen a lot of things on the GMB forums about reviews, and a lot of them don't manage to get them removed, even if the reviews are obviously false. Best advice at the moment seems to be try, respond to reviews quickly if something needs to be said, and encourage a steady flow of good reviews to help drown out a few problem voices.

I think the real moral of this story though... don't f' with a lawyer, they know what to do about it.
 
Joined
Jul 11, 2013
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Agreed with @lionandtheram. And if my client were a lawyer, I'd probably defer to her opinion on whether to bring a matter to court ;)

But this story is a welcome counterpoint to the recent spate of "Streisand effect" stories highlighting businesses who try to hold their customers to "non-disparagement" clauses.

Such stories inevitably make the business owner look bad and result in *lots* more publicity for the very speech the business is trying to suppress, e.g. Trip Advisor bad review 'fine' to be refunded by Blackpool hotel - BBC News

Too much business-shaming may embolden consumers with the belief that they're "always right" and can get away with saying anything to get back at a business who "wronged" them. I hope this story is at least an antidote to that.
 

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