In This Post:
- Summary and analysis of Yelp defamation case;
- Explanation of what business owners need to prove to win a Yelp reputation case
- Contact information for an online defamation attorney;
Another Yelp! (“Yelp”) defamation case has made headlines. In the latest installment of “Law and Order: Online Reputation Unit,” a California auto dealer is suing a client over a disparaging Yelp review.
Yelp Defamation Case Study: Business v. Yelp Reviewer
Plaintiff: Zeibak Auto Trading
Defendant: Zaki Ibrahim
Lawsuit Catalyst: Ibrahim had bought a used car for his wife at Zeibak Auto Trading. According to a report by ABC News affiliate in California, the car started giving him problems soon after he brought it home. So, according to Ibrahim, he returned to Zebiak’s to calmly discuss the matter. Allegedly, while there, staff ignored Ibrahim. Upset about the poor service, Ibrahim posted a negative review on Zebiak’s Yelp page, outlining the purported incident. In the words of Mr. Ibrahim:
“I described the experience as being a nightmare to say the least, and especially since I tried from my end to resolve the matter amicably.”
Who Will Most Likely Win This Yelp Reputation Case?
Few details have made their way to the press about this suit, so it’s impossible to do a full – and fair – case analysis. But what we can do is take a look at the basic requirements for winning an online defamation lawsuit in the United States, in relation to the facts of this Yelp reputation case.
What Constitutes Legal Defamation?
To win a slander (spoken defamation) or libel (written defamation) lawsuit in the United States, plaintiffs must, at the very least, satisfy four legal elements.
- Identity: The first thing defamation plaintiffs must prove is that the contested statements are about them. Slander and libel lawsuits have been lost because the claimants couldn’t prove that the defendants were talking about them.
- Falsity: Due to the First Amendment and established case law, pure opinion and truth cannot be deemed defamatory in a U.S. court of law. Plaintiffs almost always have to prove that their respective defendants made a false and unprivileged statement of fact.
- Harm: Except for defamation per se cases (which you can read about here), nearly all defamation plaintiffs must prove that the contested statement(s) caused them either material or reputational harm.
- Negligence: It’s not enough to prove that the defendants made a false statement of fact; to win, plaintiffs must also demonstrate that the defendant acted negligently by publishing, speaking or otherwise broadcasting the contested statement. (Note: The rules are a little different for celebrities and public figures; click here to find out why.)
Mr. Ibrahim told ABC7 Los Angeles that he is ready to fight this Yelp defamation lawsuit, and admonished that the auto dealer is “essentially trying to sue their customers into silence.”
In U.S. Defamation Cases, The Plaintiffs Have To Prove That The Defendants Lied
Unless the auto dealer can somehow prove that Mr. Ibrahim is not telling the truth, there is a chance this lawsuit won’t go far. Why? Because under United States defamation law, it’s the responsibility of the plaintiff to prove that the defendant made an unprivileged, negligent, false statement of fact. In the context of this Yelp defamation case, Zeibak would need to demonstrate that Ibrahim’s visit didn’t unfold as he described, which – who knows – may be the case. We’ll just have to wait to see how this all turns out.
Got Questions? Speak With A Yelp Defamation Attorney
In the meantime, if you are in search of a Yelp defamation lawyer to review a situation, get in touch with Kelly Warner. Our attorneys have helped countless individuals and businesses with various online reputation matters. A top-rated firm, our track record speaks for itself.