California high court: Yelp can't be ordered to remove posts

Business Law

Online review site Yelp.com cannot be ordered to remove posts against a San Francisco law firm that a judge determined were defamatory, a divided California Supreme Court ruled Monday in a closely watched case that internet companies warned could be used to silence online speech.

In a 4-3 opinion, justices agreed, saying removal orders such as the one attorney Dawn Hassell obtained against Yelp "could interfere with and undermine the viability of an online platform."

The decision overturned a lower court ruling that Yelp had said could lead to the removal of negative reviews from the popular website.

Hassell said Yelp was exaggerating the stakes of her legal effort. Her attorney, Monique Olivier, said in a statement that the ruling "stands as an invitation to spread falsehoods on the internet without consequence."

She said her client was considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hassell's 2013 lawsuit accused a client she briefly represented in a personal injury case of defaming her on Yelp by falsely claiming that her firm failed to communicate with the client, among other things.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Donald Sullivan found the online statements defamatory and ordered the client and Yelp to remove them. Hassell said the client failed to answer her lawsuit or remove the posts, so she had to seek a court order demanding that Yelp do it.

A second judge and a state appeals court upheld Sullivan's order.

"Ms. Hassell did exactly what she should have done," Olivier said Monday. "After both the defamer and Yelp refused to remove untrue and damaging statements, she obtained a judgment against the defamer, and sought to enforce that judgment by requiring Yelp to remove the defamation."

Yelp said the lower court ruling would give businesses unhappy about negative reviews a new legal pathway for getting them removed.

Yelp said the removal order violated a 1996 federal law that courts have widely interpreted as protecting internet companies from liability for posts by third-party users and prohibiting the companies from being treated as the speaker or publisher of users' posts.

Three of the California Supreme Court justices agreed.

"In substance, Yelp is being held to account for nothing more than its ongoing decision to publish the challenged reviews," Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said in an opinion joined by associate justices Ming Chin and Carol Corrigan.

Associate Justice Leondra Kruger said in a separate opinion that she agreed that the removal order against Yelp was invalid, but for a different reason. Hassell did not name Yelp as a defendant, so the company did not get its "own day in court," Kruger said.

Related listings

  • Court program in Dona Ana County focuses on veterans

    Court program in Dona Ana County focuses on veterans

    Business Law 05/29/2018

    A new court program has opened in Dona Ana County that focuses on the substance abuse and mental health issues facing military veterans who have been charged with non-violent crimes.Las Cruces Sun-News reports that the first hearing in the 3rd Judici...

  • The Latest: Louisiana oil pipeline's impact debated in court

    The Latest: Louisiana oil pipeline's impact debated in court

    Business Law 04/27/2018

    A court hearing over whether construction of a crude oil pipeline in an environmentally fragile Louisiana swamp will continue focused on whether enough would be done to make up for environmental impacts from the project.An attorney for Bayou Bridge P...

  • Facebook to stop spending against California privacy effort

    Facebook to stop spending against California privacy effort

    Business Law 04/12/2018

    Facebook says it will stop spending money to fight a proposed California ballot initiative aimed at giving consumers more control over their data.The measure, known as the "California Consumer Privacy Act," would require companies to disclose upon re...

Illinois Work Injury Lawyers – Krol, Bongiorno & Given, LTD.

Accidents in the workplace are often caused by unsafe work conditions arising from ignoring safety rules, overlooking maintenance or other negligence of those in management. While we are one of the largest firms in Illinois dedicated solely to the representation of injured workers, we pride ourselves on the personal, one-on-one approach we deliver to each client.

Work accidents can cause serious injuries and sometimes permanent damage. Some extremely serious work injuries can permanently hinder a person’s ability to get around and continue their daily duties. Factors that affect one’s quality of life such as place of work, relationships with friends and family, and social standing can all be taken away quickly by a work injury. Although, you may not be able to recover all of your losses, you may be entitled to compensation as a result of your work injury. Krol, Bongiorno & Given, LTD. provides informed advocacy in all kinds of workers’ compensation claims, including:

• Injuries to the back and neck, including severe spinal cord injuries
• Serious head injuries
• Heart problems resulting from workplace activities
• Injuries to the knees, elbows, shoulders and other joints
• Injuries caused by repetitive movements

For Illinois Workers’ Compensation claims, you will ALWAYS cheat yourself if you do not hire an experienced attorney. When you hire Krol, Bongiorno & Given, Ltd, you will have someone to guide you through the process, and when it is time to settle, we will add value to your case IN EXCESS of our fee. In the last few years, employers and insurance carriers have sought to advance the argument that when you settle a case without an attorney, your already low settlement should be further reduced by 20% so that you do not get a “windfall.” Representing yourself in Illinois is a lose-lose proposition.

Business News

New York Adoption Lawyers Rosin Steinhagen Mendel is a law firm dedicated to serving our clients in New York City. >> read
Chicago Work Accident Lawyers at Krol, Bongiorno & Given have been a leader in the field of workers' compensation law. >> read