Christopher Dietz, a Washington, DC contractor, has filed a $750,000 defamation lawsuit against a Virginia woman who posted scathing reviews on Yelp over work that his that his firm did on her home.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Dietz claims that the negative reviews “sent customers fleeing” and cost him nearly $300,000 in business. He is also asking a Fairfax County court for a preliminary injunction to keep her from writing any more damaging reviews.
Jane Perez, a retired captain in the armed forces, posted the reviews after Dietz Development did what she considered “shoddy” work on her town home in Fairfax, Virginia in June 2011. She accused the contractor of damaging her home and said that Dietz “was the only one with a key” when some of her jewelry disappeared.
Mr. Dietz says he completed the cosmetic work on Ms. Perez’s home with no damage, but that Ms. Perez never paid him, and that she demanded he complete projects beyond what was their agreement. He also says that her comments regarding missing jewelry are false.
Ms. Perez says she stands by her reviews, saying they were truthful, even though she has removed her reviews from Yelp. Her attorney said that the reviews were removed because Mr. Dietz made comments in his response posts that were allegedly false.
There is a growing number of defamation lawsuits over online reviews, The Post-Gazette says. “Some reviewers and free-speech advocates, including Ms. Perez, see the cases as free-speech issues: they say the lawsuits are heavy-handed attempts to stifle critical – but valuable – consumer information that has forced businesses to be held accountable.”
But business owners say the internet has made slander to be much more damaging, and say they are being forced to “take extreme legal measures.” One false review can live forever on a site and reach millions of viewers, causing untold damage to the business.