Virginia court case involving online defamation of contractor yields split decision
The court ruled in favour of both the contractor, Christopher Dietz, and the homeowner, Jane Perez. Each was found to have defamed the character of the other. Contractors hoping to get negative online reviews judged legally liable, by an American court of law, will be disappointed.
By Steve Payne
Last week’s day in court for Washington, DC-based renovation contractor Christopher Dietz and homeowner Jane Perez yielded a “split decision,” with the jury awarding moral victories to both sides, but not apportioning any cash settlements either way.
Perez had posted online reviews of Dietz’s work on both Angie’s List and Yelp! Perez’s reviews harslhly criticized Dietz’s work – and one of the posts said that her jewelry had gone missing and contractor Dietz was the “only one” with a key. She filed suit against Dietz.
Dietz, meanwhile, sued Perez for defamation of character, claiming that her negative reviews online had cost him $500,000 in new contracts that he would have obtained, had the online “defamation” not been visible to his potential clients.
Perez countersued Dietz for defamation of character, as well.
It has all turned into a test case for the legality of online reviews that allegedly contain untrue statements. The two former high-school classmates started out on good terms as Dietz undertook the renovation of Perez’s home in Fairfax, Va. in 2012.
The jury in the case last week agreed with Dietz that his character had been defamed by Perez. And that Perez’s character had been defamed by Dietz.
A further decision on what can and cannot remain online about this dispute, is pending.
For a more comprehensive coverage of this story, please read Tim Regan’s story in Remodeling magazine.