Critical Yelp review sparks lawsuit

A local contractor was victorious in court Wednesday after suing a former client for a negative review she posted on Yelp about{ } the work he completed.

Jane Perez, an old high school classmate of contractor Christopher Dietz, hired Dietz Development to do work on her Falls Church townhome in June 2011.

Once the job was done, Perez logged on to Yelp and posted a harsh review of the D.C. contracting firm, listing jobs he did not perform at the home, damage that was done and jewelry that had disappeared, The Washington Post reported.

“Bottom line do not put yourself through this nightmare of a contractor,” Perez said at the close of one of her Yelp posts.

Dietz in turn sued Perez for $750,000, claiming Internet defamation. He said her critical posts were false and negatively affecting the number of customers he is getting. He claims he successfully completed work for which he was never paid.

He also asked a Fairfax County court for an injunction to stop Perez from writing similar critical reviews, The Washington Post reported.

Perez removed her post on Yelp on her own, but the judge is allowing the post on Angie's List to remain. She does have to remove the jewelry theft allegations, as well as mentions of legal action against Dietz.

"To be able to say I was right and not wrong and truth prevailed, it is a great feeling," Dietz said. "If it's negative and true, that's fair. If it's negative and not true, that's unfair."

Perez's attorney countered, "You should always have a right to free speech. She should be able to describe her experience with the contractor...she definitely told the truth."

The case is far from over. Dietz says the situation has not only hurt his reputation, but cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost business. He is suing Perez for $700,000 in damages. No word yet on when that trial will begin.

Yelp released the following statement: "Consumer freedom of speech provides an important public service, protected by law. Yelp provides a valuable contribution to this dialogue by providing a two-way platform for consumers to share their experiences and for businesses to respond to their customers. Courts have consistently ruled that consumers have the right to share their truthful experiences. As a result, businesses that choose to sue their customers to silence them rather than address their comments, rarely prevail and often bring additional unwanted attention to the original criticism."