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You can be sued for bad reviews posted to internet sites, court rules!

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posted on Aug, 4 2013 @ 05:43 PM
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This is the case of a man who apparently had a very bad experience with his landlords. After they tried to evict him, he moved out on his own. However, he had a few things to say about them and let the world know about it.


(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.


I'd say this one strikes pretty close to home for how we all feel pretty free to say whatever we'd like about whomever we'd like. We all do it at one time or another and by the standards of this case, most of us have crossed these lines as well, I'd guess. At least a couple times, in one story or another.


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.)


Well, yes, he certainly DID have quite a bit to say, I must agree. He was a bit more specific than I see most people get with quoting other unit numbers, but that isn't even the point of the suit against him. Among the other things claimed by the landlords is that they have never been diagnosed as "sociopaths or narcissistic". Errr... Who would have thought saying that would get a person sued in net posted opinion?


"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.
Source: Courthouse News

I have to say, this might be one to stop a second and give thought to. It came out of the California Court of Appeal's First Appellate District, so it's not carrying real weight like a Federal Circuit Court of Appeals would. However, it's still a precedent set and can sure be referred to in other cases as support to arguments. For those IN California, it does carry actual meaning.

I suppose we need to at least keep those things in mind while typing our raw opinions and feelings. Someone could sue....and at least one appellate court says they have every right to try.




posted on Aug, 4 2013 @ 05:52 PM
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The answer is to make sure everything you say is FACT.

If you only speak the truth they cant do diddly squat!



posted on Aug, 4 2013 @ 05:57 PM
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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.
edit on 4-8-2013 by tanda7 because: spelling



posted on Aug, 4 2013 @ 06:49 PM
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reply to post by Wrabbit2000
 


Wow, first the Monsanto protection act and now you can't even speak ill of those that do wrong.

Welcome to the new America. Home of the free?



edit on 2013/8/4 by Metallicus because: Sp



posted on Aug, 4 2013 @ 06:59 PM
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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?


Sure you can speak ill of those who have wronged you. You just can't make crap up in the process. Actually you are still free to do so, but you might end up facing a suite for libel.



posted on Aug, 4 2013 @ 06:59 PM
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I am pretty sure that in the following manner, both British and American law, require a claimant for libel, slander, or defamation of character, to prove that they are not, in fact, guilty of whatever transgression they are accused of by the target of any lawsuit or legal action they might bring.

I do not believe that it is possible for any legal action to be bought against this person, if indeed his claims are true, which, they may well be. Landlords are like anyone else. A percentage will be the king of the bastards, and some will be good as gold. I believe there SHOULD be better protection for people who speak out against those who cause trouble for the people to whom they rent property however. They hold such power over a persons security and peace of mind, that they should be under very close scrutiny, and so should thier properties. I have lived in some utter dives as a result of poor oversight in this regard, and I can tell you, its no barrel of laughs.



posted on Aug, 4 2013 @ 07:09 PM
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As your article noted, the reason this guy got sued was because he didnt stick to facts.


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.



posted on Aug, 5 2013 @ 04:44 AM
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We're seeing this more and more now.

It started out with what, on the surface, seems a laudable aim.....going after the worst kind of 'trolls' - the most extreme and sociopathic of the online community who badger and bait other users persistently for kicks.

A number of people in the UK have been publicly named and prosecuted for this 'crime'; I don't recall anyone objecting to this.....even though it's just a simple case of blocking the user, so you can no longer see what he writes.

I always felt it was the thin end of the wedge....now any whingebag can complain that the personal views of some anonymous poster in some unprepossessing corner of cyberspace are "libellous" and, bingo, suddenly their mask of anonymity disappears and they are paraded through the media like mediaeval criminals in the stocks.

It's a great cause for concern.



posted on Aug, 5 2013 @ 11:28 AM
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reply to post by alfa1
 


Indeed... Not sticking to facts pretty well defines Libel under US civil law. It sounds like the Sociopath/Narcissist comments he posted really hit them the worst for their personal reactions. At least that's what I get from the quotes in the story and what the landlords chose to focus on. I'd make a comment here about that but I might get sued!



posted on Aug, 5 2013 @ 01:39 PM
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reply to post by tanda7
 



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.


Probably would have helped his case. Still though, I think the court got it right in this particular case.



posted on Aug, 6 2013 @ 12:49 PM
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Our tour company that took us to the grand canyon threatened to sue us because we posted a bad review about them.



posted on Aug, 6 2013 @ 01:00 PM
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reply to post by Gazrok
 


Im with you on that Gazrok.

For a start, online reviews are becoming an ever more important part of the new age of the consumer. The interactive and instant nature of these reviews, means that it is vital that accurate information be provided by contributors, so that users who use the reviews as a guide to purchasing goods and services, are not mislead.

Also, it is important that people tell the truth because it prevents thier being held to account by genuinely spurious legal action. The person who wrote the review in question however not only made themselves a target by BSing people, but also bought the entire system of user reviews under scrutiny. It doesnt make any sense. Its a bit like posting blatant hoaxes in the UFO forum right here at ATS! Just makes the poster a pillock at best!



posted on Aug, 6 2013 @ 01:53 PM
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reply to post by burroughshere
 



Our tour company that took us to the grand canyon threatened to sue us because we posted a bad review about them.


As long as everything you stated was true, they'd have no basis for the suit....



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