Negative reviews may cost your business $300,000

WASHINGTON – After writing a review on Yelp and Angie’s List about a local design and contracting firm, Fairfax County resident Jane Perez is being sued for $750,000 in damages by the contractor, Christopher Dietz.

Dietz claims Perez defamed his business with her one-star review. Both took the stand Tuesday.

Perez testified that she didn’t research Dietz’s background because they went to high school together.

When Dietz took the stand, he defended his work. A number of character witnesses testified he is professional, and is easy to work with.

Perez hired Dietz’s company, Dietz Development LLC, in 2011 to paint, refinish floors, do electrical, plumbing and general handyman work, as stated in her online review. She claims her “home was damaged, and the work had to be re-done.”

Dietz fired back at Perez by seeking a preliminary injunction, asking for her to modify her online review. The Virginia Supreme Court overturned the injunction, the Post reports. Her review is still up on the site and even includes details about the case.

The legal case examines the areas of Internet free speech and the First Amendment. The Washington Post notes that the case is being “closely watched by First Amendment advocates and businesses alike.”

Dietz claims that Perez’s post “cost him for $300,000 in business and took a toll on him personally.”

Dietz is licensed in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, but was not licensed in Virginia at the time he did work on Perez’s home.

The Post reports that Perez was shocked that she was served with a lawsuit because of a review she posted. She is counter-suing Dietz for the response he posted to her Yelp review as well as accusing him of stealing $2,500 worth of jewelry.

Update: Yelp reached out to clarify the reason many of the scrubbed reviews from the Dietz Development page were removed from the site: “Our TOS state that reviews must be about a first-hand experience,” wrote the spokeswoman in an email. “Many of the reviews that have been removed from Dietz’s business listing for violating our TOS were removed after the story gained media attention because they were not first-hand experiences (but instead, people voicing their personal opinion of the situation).”

According to Levy, who spoke with Perez’s current attorney, Perez may sue Dietz for breech of contract because “she had to pay other contractors” to fix the problems she says Dietz’s employees caused at her townhouse.

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