Woman Sued for Defamation After Posting One Star Review on Yelp

By Dawn Cranfield

Woman Sued for Defamation After Posting One Star Review on Yelp

Christopher Dietz, a Washington D.C. contractor, is suing one of his customers after she posted a scathing review on the Internet site Yelp.  The $750,000 Internet defamation lawsuit is in response to Jane Perez’ one-star review of the work Dietz performed in her townhouse in Fairfax, Virginia in June, 2011.

Dietz and Perez, high school friends, drew up a contract wherein Dietz would paint, refinish floors, perform electrical and plumbing work, and do other tasks.

According to Perez’ comments on her one-star review, Dietz left her left her home damaged, he invoiced her for work he did not complete, and he had the only key when she some jewelry disappeared.   She also makes claims he trespassed on her property.  Additionally, she stated she has to pay thousands more than originally estimated, presumably to another contractor

However she has not filed a police report for the missing jewelry, and Dietz has not been charged in the theft or for the trespass.

Though Dietz says he did complete the work he was contracted to perform and did not damage the home; he also states she did not pay him and demanded he perform work above and beyond their agreement.

A classic case of he said, she said.

Enter the age of technology, where everybody with a computer and the most basic grasp of surfing the Internet and a desire to share their voice can be heard.

Perez sits at her keyboard and she writes, “Bottom line do not put yourself through this nightmare of a contractor.” (washingtonpost.com)  Maybe she thinks she has an inherent right to verse what she feels is her opinion; she wants to be helpful to others so they are not treated in the shabby way she feels she was in her business transaction with Dietz Development.

Although, she did not only post her opinion of what she thought about the work he performed; she accused him of theft and of trespass, two unlawful offenses.  Other reviewers followed suit and said they would not hire him because he was suing his client; interesting concept, my understanding was the site was meant as a review of his contracting skills, not as a public forum for a political debate.

Dietz claims he has lost $300,000 in business; this will be tough for him to prove, as he will truly have no way of knowing how many people are sitting at home on their computers thinking, “Yeah, I was going to hire that guy until I saw that ladies’ nasty remarks.” As I stated before, he said, she said.

This case could go either way; for Perez, the defense to a defamation case is whether or not what she stated was opinion, and if it was not just opinion, was it truthful.  If everything she stated was truthful, she will be triumphant; still, the lack of a police report when you have accused somebody of stealing your jewelry…

As for Dietz, when you are trying to recover a specific sum of money for basically a loss of future revenue, it is challenging to prove what the loss of income would have been.  He will probably also need to substantiate his completion of the work; maybe not, I am not an attorney.

While these cases are somewhat new, they are becoming more frequent in our court system unfortunately; and this case could be determined in either direction.  This year in Anaheim, California, a technology company was awarded $1.6 million against a blogger who accused them of stealing money from business associates.  Conversely, last year, in another California case a dentist was ordered to pay the legal bills of a family he sued for defamation over a negative review one of them posted on Yelp.

In a time where every one of us is a reviewer, an author, an instant celebrity, take a moment before you click “send” or “post”; read over what you wrote, cool off, and ask yourself, 1) Is this strictly my opinion? 2) Do I want myself to be presented this way publicly in perpetuity? And 3) Is this something I would want my mother or children to be proud to read?