When negative comments are written online about a business, is that actionable in a court of law? The environment under which the comments are written and the exposure the comments receive come into question, according to retired California Superior Court Judge Eugene Hyman.
Most commonly, the people who are most concerned about this are dentists, doctors and lawyers, says Hyman. "Calling a physician a quack is obviously disparaging but the question is, is it actionable?," he says. With Facebook, Hyman adds, there is a certain amount of priviledge that is recognized by the courts to the defendant, the person posting the comments, as this is deemed as free speech and there is a relatively small number of people reading it.
With Yelp, the online review site, the reviews are going to be seen by a much larger base because there are relationships involved, says Hyman, and there is some responsibility on Yelp to respond and remove inappropriate comments. There is a great deal of first amendment exercise that you have a right to state your opinion, says Hyman.
Honorable Judge Eugene Hyman has received numerous awards and recognition for his work with families and children and has appeared on numerous television news shows. For more information, visit www.judgehyman.com. He is also a featured commentator on The Family Law Channel and The Legal Broadcast Network.