Businesses file lawsuits over online postings

November 30, 2012 3:33:12 PM PST
Had a bad experience at a restaurant or a business? Before you go online and tell everyone, you should be aware more businesses are taking those unhappy customers to court.

Ron Jorgensen is in the precious metals business, buying and selling gold and silver. He deals with hundreds, if not thousands, of customers a year. His advertising is exclusively online. So when he saw a negative review that he knew wasn't true, he called his lawyer.

"We think competitors are using the cloak of the Internet to unfairly compete with my client," explained Justin Strother, attorney for Houston Gold and Silver.

Jorgenson is actually involved in two lawsuits in which he claims people who were not customers posted untrue comments on review sites and those have hurt his business.

Strother said, "If a negative review is up there and it's not a true negative review, then it has a disastrous impact."

He's not the only business in court over comments alleged to be defamatory. Chicago Bridge and Iron is suing two anonymous posters who personally attacked two members of its executive team.

KTRK legal analyst Joel Androphy said, "The standard of truth applies, but there's no remedy whether you're telling the truth or not."

Androphy says the law has not caught up with the Internet. And while a lawsuit may or may not be fruitful financially, it won't speed up the process of erasing what's already on the world wide web -- at least not yet.

"With the Internet age, we may see a development of case law that allows certain kind of injunctive relief that is not available now," Androphy said.

Jorgensen says his business is down sharply this year for an untruthful review that stayed online for months. Now he's just hoping to recover some of what he lost.


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