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Review posting liability

Maryland
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Review posting liability

In our ever litigious society, I just read an article discussing a disturbing trend of reviewed establishments suing the negative reviewers. Below is an example from a doctor review website. Does anybody know of similar issues in Tripadvisor? If TA contributors can not be honest for fear of litigation, this would obviously marginalize the site's utility.

e.g 1. Doctors win $12 million award. Sherry Petta had cosmetic surgery at an Arizona facility. Afterwards, she had trouble healing and launched a website to complain about the medical treatment. A judge ordered her to take the website down. She then posted negative comments on various websites. She made accusations that two doctors falsified medical records, tampered with evidence, abused narcotics, were unlicensed and used unauthorized products.

In 2008, the physicians sued for defamation, claiming the accusations caused their practice harm and resulted in financial losses. In January 2012, a jury awarded them $12 million. (Desert Palm Surgical Group PLC et al v. Petta, Maricopa County Sup. Ct., CV2008-010464)

Chester, United...
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1. Re: Review posting liability

"If TA contributors can not be honest for fear of litigation, this would obviously marginalize the site's utility"

If the reviewers opinon was factual how would the personal taking legal action win???

Cabarete, Dominican...
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for Cabarete
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2. Re: Review posting liability

Defamation is a series charge. If the courts found for the doctors, this lady have no way of substantiating her claims.

Whether you write reviews on TA or another site, be honest. A review site like this ne is about reviewers' opinions and perceptions. If you're going to make claims of scam, fraud, etc. you'd better have evidence to substantiate your claims.

Silvia

Vancouver, Canada
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3. Re: Review posting liability

Here's an article from the Help Center that pertains to your question:

What if a reviewer receives threats from an owner to remove a review?

…custhelp.com/app/…legal

Regards,

L4

Toronto, Canada
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6,858 posts
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4. Re: Review posting liability

People fall into the trap of thinking that the "rules" of normal discourse don't apply because they're writing under a semi-anonymous online handle. For example, you've copied the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs of your post verbatim from …bizactions.com/resource_library/article.cfm… , without quotations or attribution.

TripAdvisor's rules and guidelines do not supersede local law and TripAdvisor won't offer support or assistance in a legal defence against defamation claims, even if they'll chastise the business for acting that way. Presumably they'd comply with any court order requesting whatever information they might have that would reveal your identity.

As I understand it, the best defence against any defamation claim is that the statements were true or expressed purely as an opinion. I've seen all sorts of reviews and forum posts that clearly crossed the line into false accusations. The only things stopping those folks from getting sued are (a) the business doesn't know, (b) the matter is too small for them to care, or (c) they've judged the PR risk to be too high.

Edited: 23 January 2013, 14:33
Maryland
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5. Re: Review posting liability

Uhh, no offense flip-flop, but you're being naive. People underservedly win law suits all the time in this country (e.g. remember OJ?) And even if I express my opinion, and "facts", that doesn't stop a reviewed entity from filing legal action. And in our "wonderful" legal system there is virtually no dis-incentive for filing such action. Then me, as an honest reviewer would have to spend my own money on defensive legal fees. Which even if I win, rarely does the winner recoup legal fees. The US is unique among countries worldwide in this manner.

Net, while I enjoy reading TA opinions, and sharing my own experiences, its not worth the risk if I have to worry about legal actions and fees. And that would be ashame.

Portland, Oregon
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6. Re: Review posting liability

CulinarySnob. The bottom line is you are responsible for what you write. Period. A website cannot protect you from your own actions. There is nothing TA can do to change that.

If that is not a risk you wish to take, then you will want to curb your online speech, not just here, but everywhere.

Calgary, Canada
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for Calgary
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7. Re: Review posting liability

OJ didn't win a law suit, he was found not guilty in a criminal trial. Since he could have been sent to jail, the prosecution had to prove their case "beyond a reasonable doubt" and they failed to do so. Also, it was a jury trial, and since the 18th century, juries have been allowed to give any verdict that they wish, regardless of the evidence.

But you're right, it can be difficult to defend yourself against a frivolous lawsuit. However, I've never heard of any reviewer actually being sued. That kind of thing tends to make the news, as you've discovered. As Matt pointed out, unless you're careless enough to leave enough info that the business knows your identity just from reading your review, the business will have to get a court order to find out who you are from TripAdvisor. And how much info have you supplied to TA? Most people just give an email address.

The best defence is to be as anonymous as possible (so you're hard to track down) and give a fair and honest review so that there is little motivation for someone to sue you in the first place. Avoid over-the-top language (which may violate the review guidelines anyway) and just say what happened.

Wales, United...
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for Bargain Travel, Cruises, Swansea, Cardiff, Carmarthenshire, Neath, Port Talbot
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8. Re: Review posting liability

The accusations that led to the actions referred to in the opening post are clearly very serious ones and I'm not surprised that a professional would want to defend themselves when such accusations have been flying around various websites.

It's a bit different to write an honest review which contains lines like 'I thought the rooms were small', which is a pretty subjective opinion and expressed as such. But if someone wrote 'the owner went through my room when I was out and stole my laptop and all my money' that is quite different, and if the person doesn't have the evidence to say that this is actually what happened, they would be well advised not to write it at all!

Maryland
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9. Re: Review posting liability

MattinTO,

I completely agree with you that reviews must be factual. How any of us process the "facts" and put the experience into the context of an overall opinion (eg "star" rating) however, can be subject to disagreement, and potential legal action. As a lawyer friend once told me, There is no right or wrong, just differences of opinion. Differences of opinion interpreting "facts" are the bread and butter of the US court system.

I would postulate that most TA review assessments are subjective. Say, hypothetically, I visit a fish restaurant. I order flounder. The flounder arrives and I judge it to be mushy with a spoiled fishy odor. For me, it is the worst flounder I've ever had. I might post on TripAdvisor: "Worst Flounder Ever". All "facts", however, based upon my personal preference and judgment. The chef in the restaurant may have a different interpretation of my "facts". He may decide to sue. Not very good for business in my opinion, but nothing in the US legal system surprises me.

The TA business model depends on all Contributors' ability to express honest opinions. If the risk (cost) to do so becomes unacceptable versus the benefit, we stop contributing. My original question was: Have TripAdvisor Reviewers been subject to litigation resulting from their reviews? That question remains. Additionally, I would like to know what protection TA provides to its Contributors against litigation? It appears the answer is: 1) they will lean on businesses that bully a Contributor, and 2) we're on our own.

Portland, Oregon
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10. Re: Review posting liability

Yes there have been a few court cases over the years against revuewers. As far as I know TA itself wasn't involved as they were not a party, except to provide evidence.