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(CN) - A California man who trashed his former landlords in a Yelp review cannot strike their libel claim by characterizing the review as mere opinion, an appeals court ruled.
"While many Internet critiques are nothing more than ranting opinions that cannot be taken seriously, Internet commentary does not ipso facto get a free pass under defamation law," Justice Kathleen Banke wrote for a three-member panel of the California Court of Appeal's First Appellate District.
Calling himself Sal R., Papaliolios wrote that the Jones Street building was owned by a "sociopathic narcissist - who celebrates making the lives of tenants hell."
"Of the 16 mostly-long-term tenants who lived in the building when the new owners moved in, the new owners' noise, intrusions and other abhorrent behaviors likely contributed to the death of three tenants (Pat, Mary & John) and the departure of eight more (units 1001, 902, 802, 801, 702, 701, 602, 502) in very short order," one review stated. "Notice how they cleared out all the upper-floor units, so they could charge higher rents?"
It ended with Papaliolios warning that "there is NO RENT that is low enough to make residency here worthwhile." (Emphasis in original.)
Source: Courthouse News
"The mere fact speech is broadcast across the Internet by an anonymous speaker does not ipso facto make it nonactionable opinion and immune from defamation law," Banke wrote for the court.
Originally posted by Metallicus
reply to post by Wrabbit2000
Wow, first the Monsanto protection act and now you can't even speak ill of those that wrong you.
Welcome to the new America. Home of the free?
The Bentlys told the court that they can disprove all of Papaliolios' assertions, noting first off that neither he nor his wife has ever been diagnosed as a sociopathic narcissist.
Also, John and Mary, two of the tenants described as dead at the Bentlys' hands, are still alive.
The ruling notes that Internet users could read Papaliolios' reviews "as containing factual assertions, not just mere opinion"
"Given these triable issues in connection with the merits of plaintiffs' libel claim, and the material nature of Papaliolios' statements to a prospective tenant, a trier of fact might conclude that his review was not substantially true and was defamatory," Banke wrote.
Would it have helped if he qualified his review with "this is my opinion"?
There must be some legal way to keep yourself safe from libel in this situation.