Who are you gonna trust? That’s the question that faces us daily in choosing the best restaurant, grocery store, accountant, movie theater and yes even a law firm. And for years many have turned to Yelp for guidance in this less-than-trustworthy world.
Well, the California Supreme Court on Monday overturned an appellate court ruling that would have forced Yelp Inc., the online ratings site, to remove unflattering reviews of a law firm. The 4-3 ruling was seen as a strong win for online publishers who enjoy broad immunity from liability for third-party content the sites host. Yelp was not a named defendant in the suit Hassell Law Group brought in 2013 against a former client named Ava Bird. Lawyers for Hassell Law argued the review that Bird posted on Yelp cast the firm in a false light.
“With this decision, online publishers in California can be assured that they cannot be lawfully forced to remove third-party speech through enterprising abuses of the legal system, and those of us that use such platforms to express ourselves cannot be easily silenced through such tactics either,” said Aaron Schur, Yelp’s deputy general counsel. Schur continued: “As we have observed before, litigation is never a good substitute for customer service and responsiveness, and had the law firm avoided the courtrooms and moved on, it would have saved time and money, and been able to focus more on the cases that truly matter the most—those of its clients.”
In a separate dissent, Associate Justice Goodwin Liu sided with the appellate court and said Yelp enjoyed no statutory immunity from the takedown order and was not denied any due process.
“More than four years after the trial court issued its order, Bird’s defamatory reviews remain posted on Yelp. Bird has refused to comply with the injunction, and Yelp claims it is under no legal obligation to comply,” Liu wrote. “Today’s decision agrees with Yelp, thereby ensuring that Hassell will continue to suffer reputational harm from the unlawful postings unless Bird is somehow made to comply.”
Disputes. Online, offline and everywhere in-between, they happen every day. And when they negatively affect YOUR business (things like landlord/tenant matters, contract disputes and even collections), call on the extremely trustworthy and well-reviewed litigator Dean Sperling who will work to resolve YOUR matter with YOUR best interests in mind!
More on the case:
California Justices Won’t Force Yelp to Remove Unflattering Law Firm Review