Restaurant Owner Who Lost Fight With Yelp Ordered To Pay $220,000
Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos had earlier thrown out Demetriades' lawsuit under a California law that protects people's right to discuss matters of public interest. California's anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) law not only calls for dismissals of lawsuits involving protected speech, but also allows defendants to recover their attorneys' fees.
The decision by Palazuelos, issued last week, marks at least the second time that someone who sued Yelp was ordered to pay the company's legal bills. Dentist Yvonne Wong, who unsuccessfully sued Yelp about a negative review, was ordered to pay the company $81,000.
Demetriades, who owns several restaurants in California, sued Yelp last year in Los Angeles Superior Court for allegedly engaging in “false advertising” by making misrepresentations about its review filter. Specifically, Demetriades took issue with Yelp's statements that it uses filters in order to display the “most trustworthy” reviews on the business's page, and that its reviews offer “unbiased and accurate information.”
He said in his court papers, filed last year, that these statements by Yelp are false, and that the site instead contains reviews written by people who are “specifically and demonstrably biased against the businesses they review.”
Yelp countered that Demetriades' lawsuit was driven by his desire to suppress negative reviews of his restaurants on the site.
Palazuelos sided with Yelp and ruled that its statements about how it filters reviews are covered by the state's anti-SLAPP laws. “Statements regarding the filtering of reviews on a social media site such as yelp.com are matters of public interest and are therefore protected,” she wrote earlier this year, when she dismissed the lawsuit. She also ruled that the types of statements Yelp makes about its filters are “typical representations made by a business about its product and are not actionable representations of fact.”