Another Lawsuit For Internet Criticism
By Marcus Gilmer in News on Jun 29, 2010 4:30PM
Say mean things about a company on the internet, get sued. It's the lesson a local woman just learned recently in a case that has a striking similarity to last year's story in which a woman criticized her landlord on Twitter and was sued for defamation (and the lawsuit was eventually dismissed). This time around, a woman is being sued after criticizing a concrete company on Angie's List. Helen Maslona was surprised to learn a local concrete company refused to do work at her house, five miles from their headquarters, because they claimed to cover her area in their company profile. So Helen posted this criticism on the site (which is allowed on Angie's List) and gave the company an "F." This, apparently, warrants a lawsuit asking for $10,000 in damages. Said Helen: "I'm just floored. I can't believe it. First of all, $10,000 -- for what?" And said Michael Fitzgerald, owner of the company, "I'm not trying to be a jerk. It's just hard to have somebody slander you."
This hardly seems like defamation. And an attorney CBS 2 talked to agreed, saying the lawsuit is unlikely to be successful: "Merely stating an opinion, although it is very negative and published on the Internet, does not necessarily mean you have a viable defamation action." The New York Times has an interesting article on how this kind of lawsuit is becoming more common and how state governments (and perhaps soon the federal government) are trying to combat them.