- A Michigan air conditioning company has sued a local woman for $US25,000 after she left a negative Yelp review about the business that the company says is defamatory.
- North Wind Heating & Air Conditioning accused her of publishing “false and defamatory statements” about the company that have harmed its reputation and cost the company at least six customers per day.
- A lawyer representing the woman said the company’s lawsuit was “a complete abuse of the court system.”
- It’s far from the first time companies have pursued lawsuits to quash certain online reviews – many states have adopted legislation preventing such lawsuits, but Michigan isn’t one of them.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
An air conditioning company in Michigan is suing a local woman for $US25,000 in damages after she left a bad Yelp review that the company says is defamatory.
Court records show that North Wind Heating & Air Conditioning filed its lawsuit against its former customer, Lisa Agostino, in July, just days after she posted the Yelp review. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for November 12.
North Wind’s complaint accuses Agostino of publishing “false and defamatory statements” about the company that have harmed its reputation and cost the company at least six customers per day.
Agostino’s attorney, Clarance Dass, told WXYZ that North Wind’s lawsuit was a “complete abuse of the court system,” and that his client has a First Amendment right to express her opinions on the internet.
“She believes she has the right to air grievances against companies that are publicly doing business,” Dass said. “If she takes down her post, she’s giving the company an opportunity to muzzle all of its other customers and their bad reviews. People need to know there are some companies that don’t do good jobs, and there are some companies that do do good jobs.”
It’s not the first time companies have tried to sue over negative online comments
Agostino’s review, posted under the username Lisa A., gave the company one star in July and accused it of “gouging” her on the price of a capacitor.
The review said North Wind charged her $US100 for a new capacitor, but she said she later learned from Lowe’s staff members that she could purchase it for less money from them.
A response on Yelp from the company’s owner, Carrie Szajna, argued that Szajna had tried to explain over the phone why the capacitor cost $US100, but Agostino was “yelling and would not give me a moment to speak and then hung up on me.”
Szajna told Insider in a statement that Agostino was never charged for the company’s services, and was “offered a solution to the dispute” and agreed to it. But then Agostino posted her Yelp review.
“Days later Ms. Agostino posted multiple false statements about North Wind on-line. She represents that she paid for the service call and replacement part, which she did not. She claimed she was scammed, which she was not. In addition to many other false claims,” Szajna said.
She continued: “These statements significantly affected North Wind’s business. North Wind is a small local business. Ms. Agostino’s false and defamatory statements have not only effected [sic] the North Wind’s business, but has had a direct negative effect on its ability to of their employees and their families, all because she made false claims.”
Szajna also told Insider that North Wind was “simply seeking the removal” of Agostino’s Yelp review and “never wanted money.”
It’s far from the the first time companies have sued over negative online comments.
The issue has sparked First Amendment debates for years, and prompted some states to adopt so-called anti-SLAPP laws, or statutes that prevent companies from using a legal manoeuvre known as a “strategic lawsuit against public participation” – essentially, suing or threatening to sue people exercising their First Amendment rights.
But Michigan has no anti-SLAPP law, and North Wind has argued that the dispute is not about freedom of speech.
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