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Suing for a Negative Yelp Review Can Backfire Badly

Perhaps you had a bad day. A client fired you. A judged snarled at you. A dog bit you.

OK, you're not a postal carrier; you're a lawyer. But if a dog didn't bite you, maybe someone Yelped at you. Whatever you do, however, don't sue them because it will only make things worse.

As one law firm learned down in Texas, you probably shouldn't bite back when an angry client complains about you online. Attorneys at a Texas law firm made a costly mistake when they sued a former client for complaining about them on Yelp and Facebook. A judge threw out their case and ordered the attorneys to pay Yelper Lan Cai $26,831.55 for her attorneys' fees.

Stay out of Your Client's Bedroom

It all started after the lawyers offered to represent the client in a personal injury case. She was not impressed, and she let people know it. After giving them a bad review on Yelp, she really gave it to them on Facebook.

"After 3 days, they didn't tell me anything about the doctor I needed to go to," she said. "I was in a lot of pain. Not only that, they didn't know where the hell my car was!"

It gets worse, or better if you enjoy this kind of drama.

"And they came to my house and into my room to talk to me when I was sleeping in my underwear. Seriously, it's super unprofessional! ... I came in to the office to meet with my previous attorney, but he literally ran off."

Should Have Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Instead of letting it go, the law firm sued Cai for defamation. However, Texas, like California and other states, has an Anti-SLAPP law that knocks out many defamation lawsuits in the first round.

The lawyers who brought suit against Cai have been reeling since the story hit the fan. And when the Houston Press called, it was pretty much over already.

Keith Nguyen told the reporter that Cai's mother invited them into the house, and they didn't know Cai was sleeping in her underwear. And he didn't run away when she came to the office; he said he was done for the day.

"We don't mind if someone writes a bad review," he said, "as long as it's true."

Unfortunately for Nguyen and company, the story caught fire, the judge sanctioned them and the media published other bad reviews about the firm.

So what's the lesson to be learned? Don't sue for bad reviews unless you're prepared for the damage to your reputation to multiply.

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