Write one errant TripAdvisor review, and a lawsuit will come your way.
Carleton Hotel, located in Oak Park, Illinois, is suing ex-patrons Michael Gladstone and Liora Braun. Gladstone and Braun wrote a TripAdvisor review slamming the hotel for having bedbugs - and ignoring their complaints, according to the lawsuit.
The TripAdvisor review in question describes Gladstone and Braun's version of the events. They claim that they found a bedbug in their room. They promptly notified the manager about the situation, according to the complaint.
Then, when they got home from their trip, they discovered bed bugs in their house a few weeks later. When they called the Carleton, they discovered that there was no record about the bed bug complaint during their stay, the complaint says.
However, the Carleton Hotel has a different version of events. The hotel investigated the complaint of bedbugs, and even had an outside pest control company conduct a search of the room, only to find no bed bugs. A copy of the pest control company's report was attached to the complaint.
Not only that, but the lawsuit goes on to describe that Gladstone had e-mailed the hotel about the incident. The hotel had responded with a copy of the pest control report, and Gladstone e-mailed that he would "do whatever I can through media outlets or publicity to say that your hotel is negligent in admittance of this bedbug issue," according to the complaint.
Will this lawsuit succeed? Most reviews that are posted are simply opinion, not defamation of a business. And, opinion is protected as free speech. Plus, there are other avenues where reviews that are potentially inflammatory may still have a defense against a defamation lawsuit. For example, Gladstone could defend by saying that the review posted wasn't opinion - but pure fact - truth is a defense against defamation as well.
Whether or not the court will agree with Gladstone and Braun or the hotel in the TripAdvisor review lawsuit is up in the air. Though, one thing is for sure: defending yourself in a defamation lawsuit is no vacation.
- Tripadvisor Review Complaining of Bedbugs Results in a Lawsuit (ABA Journal)
- Defamation, Libel, and Slander (FindLaw)
- Hotels Threaten Suit Over TripAdvisor Reviews (FindLaw's Injured)
- The Yelp Lawsuit: Yelp May Need Help (FindLaw's Free Enterprise)