Yelp Ordered to Take Down Negative Online Review After Law Firm Wins Defamation Case: Yelp Fighting Back (with Lotsa Big Gun Help)

A negative online review is posted by unhappy client on Yelp.com.  The negative Yelp review discusses services provided by a lawyer and law firm. So the law firm files a lawsuit, arguing that the online review is derogatory and has hurt business. Sound familiar?

It should.  It happened two years ago here in Texas.  

For details, read "Texas Law Firm Sues Client Over Negative Online Review at Yelp.Com." It includes a link to their original petition, as filed in the Travis County District Court.  

California Court Orders Yelp to Remove Negative Review Held to be Defamatory

Different twist out on the West Coast, one that's getting lots of media coverage.  There, a California personal injury law firm filed suit seeking damages allegedly resulting from a negative online review. 

Difference here between the two suits?  The California case includes Yelp being ordered to take down the review.  

Spearheaded by plaintiffs' lawyer Dawn Hassell, the California law firm won at both the trial and appellate levels (admittedly easily done as the author of the online reviews failed to show up and "defaulted.")  

Hassell's victory?  That's big news right there.  But there's more.

California Appeals Court Agrees With Court Order  to Remove Negative Review

The California judge ordered Yelp to remove the defamatory online review from its site.  And the California appeals court affirmed his decision.  

Their reasoning?  Read the appellate opinion: Hassell v. Bird, No. A143233 (Cal. Ct. App. June 7, 2016).

Yelp was not ordered to pay monetary damages to the law firm.  (Doing so would arguably violate the California Communications Decency Act.)  

Big deal here:  Yelp was NOT a defendant in the California case.  The law firm didn't sue Yelp.  It came into the case after it was ordered to remove the review.  Anyone else thinking about a possible due process problem?  

California Supreme Court Reviewing Case; Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft Write to the Court

Bigger news.  The "friends of the court" that are entering the arena.  

It's reported that powerhouses including Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft have written to the California Supreme Court.  This is fine; it's called acting as a "friend of the court," or "amicus curaie." 

Their letter warns Hassell's victory, if not reversed, will endanger free speech and otherwise do bad things.  

Among others filing before the California Supreme Court wanting a reversal:

Docket Information on Hassell v. Bird