As a business owner, you know it can take years to develop your reputation and to grow your business. And as a business owner, you may also be aware that all of your hard work may be destroyed in a single keystroke when an unhappy customer writes a disparaging review on a website like Yelp or Angie's List. That's why more and more businesses are taking their reviewers to court by bringing Yelp lawsuits.
For example, a Chicago plastic surgeon sued his Yelp reviewer after the reviewer claimed to have received a "Frankenstein breast," reports Business Insider. And another reviewer was sued by her contractor when she accused the contractor of stealing her jewelry and billing her for work that was never performed.
But even with the most damning reviews, courts are not automatically siding with businesses.
At the heart of the issue is the right to free speech. A consumer is free to comment about his experiences at your business. And just as a customer can write a glowing review on Yelp, the customer can also write a negative review as well.
Typically, businesses can bring defamation lawsuits when the reviewer posts false information and lies. So if a reviewer claims that you stole her money and never performed the job, you may win a defamation lawsuit if neither of these things are true.
However, if a reviewer instead writes that your food was inedible and vomit-inducing, this review may be protected even though it is equally damaging to your business.
What separates the two reviews is that one is based on untruths, while the other is based on an opinion. And businesses typically can't sue because a reviewer had a particularly bad time at your establishment, writes Business Insider.
If you have been subjected to some particularly nasty Yelp reviews, you may want to talk to a small business attorney to learn about the legal remedies that are available to you.
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