It happens more than most people think: A customer leaves a negative online review, and the company, seeking to protect its reputation, sues the reviewer for defamation. The sad reality is that most people, when they see that they’re being sued, simply remove their reviews and back down. But you should know that you can fight a lawsuit like this to protect your own free speech and the important service these reviews provide.
Some companies will try to bully reviewers with threats of lawsuits
A recent article on ABC30 online discusses the prevalence of retaliatory lawsuits from companies against their negative reviewers. Most people place their reviews online as a service for others, but the mere threat of a lawsuit will make them back down and remove their reviews rather than fight it out in court.
However, it is important to know that you have the right to put up online reviews, and you can fight these claims.
Defending yourself against defamation lawsuits
If you are being sued for libel or defamation by a company you reviewed negatively, ask yourself:
- Was your review honest? Do not add to the facts in your review. Keep it limited to your honest, factual experience.
- Was it factual? If you want to do harm to a business for personal reasons or just because you’re upset about an unfortunate experience there, it is still essential to keep your review factual. Avoid hearsay (what you heard someone else say about the business you’re reviewing) and remember to avoid grandiose conclusory statements (like “this company is evil and they will rip you off!”). Just stay with the facts of what you personally experienced.
- Was it clean? Here it is extremely important to avoid vulgar language and stick with measured, clear writing. The more rage and negative emotion in your review, evidenced by cursing and name-calling, will make it harder to determine the facts and honesty of your review.
The important thing to note is that you do have the right to review businesses online. It is an important service for the rest of the community, and you are protected in your speech by the constitution.
If your review was honest and factual, without excessive bad language and vitriol, you should be able to win your case. An experienced defamation defense lawyer can look at the facts of your case and help you determine the best course of action.