Legal Diet: Yelp Sued For Defamation
A Miami-based company that delivers meals has sued the review site Yelp for defamation for allegedly showing negative reviews before the positive ones.
YS Catering, which operates the service The Fresh Diet, alleges that the first 13 posts about it displayed on Yelp are "low-rated reviews, tending toward negative criticism." YS Catering says that 16 additional reviews are only available if users click to another page. Those posts by users allegedly include "high-rated positive reviews."
The company alleges that Yelp committed "defamation by implication" on the theory that it made "negative reviews easily accessible, while omitting by hiding access to the 'additional' positive reviews."
But the case isn't likely to get far in court, predicts Santa Clara University Internet law expert Eric Goldman. He says Yelp will likely secure a rapid victory because the Federal Communications Decency Act provides that online services like Yelp are immune from defamation liability based on posts by users.
In this case, YS Catering argues that it was defamed by Yelp's decision to order the posts in a particular order, as opposed to the posts themselves. Even so, Goldman says, Yelp should still be able to claim immunity, noting that other judges have rejected attempts to hold Yelp liable for business decisions related to its display of reviews.
For instance, a state court judge in New York last year dismissed dentist Glenn Reit's defamation lawsuit against the review company. In that case, Reit unsuccessfully argued that Yelp engaged in deceptive business practices by removing good reviews.
YS Catering brought its suit in state court in Miami-Dade County. Late last week, the case was transferred to federal court in the Southern District of Florida.