Courts Officially Can’t Make You Rewrite Yelp Reviews

Senior Contributor

Leaving a crappy review on Yelp is something many, many small businesses are concerned about, and for excellent reason. Despite ample evidence that it can’t be trusted for various reasons, Yelp is, for many, the last word on businesses large and small.

So actually, a woman winning the right to keep her crappy review of a local contractor up is pretty important.

At root was a court injunction that basically ordered a furious customer to edit their review until the libel case brought by the reviewee, Dietz Developments, had run its course:

Perez had hired Dietz to do painting, re-finishing, and various other construction-related tasks worth $53,000 at her home in 2011. However, she was unhappy with the work that Dietz and his crew were doing and terminated him from the job.

A lower court had ruled in December 2012 that Perez, the homeowner, was required to edit her harsh comments on Yelp and Angie’s List against [Dietz]. After Public Citizen and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a 21-page petition for review to the Supreme Court of Virginia on December 26, the highest state court overturned the injunction just two days later, on December 28.

It sounds like a minor court scuffle, but imagine this: You have a bad experience at the taco place or Chinese joint down the block and post about it on Facebook. Nothing fancy, just “OH GOD OH SWEET HORRIFYING GOD I SHALL NEVER GET OFF THIS TOILET! NEVER EAT HERE!”

Then the next day you get dragged into court over defamation charges, which will cost thousands to fight and you could, in fact, lose. Or you could turn that review into “Obviously, dear friends, I suffer from IBS and the ambrosial delights at Larry’s Greasy Taco Shack were clearly not to blame for my intestinal maelstrom.”

Before you ask who would ever do that, keep in mind we live in a world where somebody is seriously trying to sue people for using a scanner without their permission. So, let’s all be thankful that Perez, whether or not her case has merit, will at least be able to leave her review up.

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