Internet rants are not always safe speech, according to a California Appellate Court that recently refused to throw out a defamation lawsuit brought by a San Francisco landlord against a former tenant for posting negative reviews in Yelp.
According to a report, the justices refused to assume that the review is an opinion rather than fact, a necessary element to proving damages for defamation.
The landlord filed a claim of libel against the tenant after he posted statements that would deter new tenants from applying for vacancies. In an online review, the tenant called the landlord a sociopath, and accused the landlord of “abhorrent behaviors”, including contributing to the death of tenants, according to the report.
Rather than removing the posts, the tenant is said to have republished them numerous times. The tenant tried to argue that his words are opinion, and not objective facts, therefore, the defamation case will fail. However, the justices ruled that readers may reasonably believe that the assertions are true. As a result, the case will proceed to trial on the merits.
According to the report, the landlord is confident he can prove that he is not a sociopath.
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