Yelp is a website that crowd-sources recommendations and reviews of local businesses. Many businesses see an increase in business activity based upon positive reviews and recommendations left on the website, while others believe that their business good-will and reputation are harmed by negative reviews that may or may not be accurate.
Buzzfeed recounts the story of a New York dentist that has sued at least 3 negative reviewers for speaking their mind about the services provided by this business. The increase in such activity has led Yelp to alert reviewers to businesses who make, in Yelp’s words, “questionable legal threats” against reviewers speaking their mind. The story also states that Congress is currently considering bills designed to protect consumers from such lawsuits based upon negative reviews posted online.
The basis of many of these lawsuits seem to be based on a theory of defamation. The legal elements of defamation in New York are:
- a false statement;
- published to a third party without privilege or authorization;
- with fault amounting to at least negligence;
- that caused special harm or defamation per se.
*Gene Berardelli may be contacted at: GeneBerardelli@ipglegal.com.
Gene is a New York street-smart attorney with an extreme passion for success. Gene specializes in litigation, arbitration and general corporate law for New York-based and international clients. He, also, is the host of a popular New York talk radio program.
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