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Defamation lawsuit stems from negative Yelp comments.


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3/27/2015
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Yelp and other online review websites allow consumers to comment on their experience at a restaurant or business.  These comments can range from particulars about what someone thought of a food item, to opinions on the business itself.  Jennifer Ujimori in Virginia recently did just that on Yelp with regard to a business called Dog Tranquility.  Ms. Ujimori took her dog to an obedience class at this business and was dissatisfied so much that she wrote on Yelp that "the services delivered were not as advertised and the owner refused a refund."  The owner saw this post and took action by filing a lawsuit against Ujimori for defamation, alleging that the statements were false and damaged her business.  These types of lawsuits are becoming more prevalant with the widespread use of online review websites that often anger business owners.  The issue with these lawsuits is that 1st Amendment free speech rights are potentially at risk if people are not allowed to freely express their opinions.  Many states have "anti-SLAPP" ('strategic lawsuits against public participation') laws that allow a judge to dismiss a lawsuit if they believe it is targeted at stifling First Amendment rights.  Virginia, the state where this particular lawsuit was filed, does not currently have such a law; Ms. Ujimori hopes that by bringing the lawsuit to the public's attention, legislators will see the need for such laws to protect free speech rights 



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