We "Value" Your Opinion
There is no shortage of opinions on the Internet, but in the case of a Texas couple, their opinion touched off a $1 million dollar lawsuit.
Michelle and Robert Duchouquette hired Prestigious Pets to care for their two dogs and one fish while the Duchouquettes were out of town. When the couple returned from their trip they had some issues with the fees charged and the overfeeding of their fish, leading Ms. Duchouquette to write a one-star review on Yelp
. Prestigious Pets responded directly to the one-star review, but then took it a step further by filing suit against the Duchouquettes citing libel and requesting "actual damages, punitive damages and damages for the infliction of emotional distress" to the tune of $1 million dollars.
The Duchouquettes are fighting the lawsuit by arguing that Prestigious Pets cannot prove that the review was made with malice or that the non-disparagement clause in the agreement they signed waived the Duchouquettes' right to free speech. This sentiment is echoed by Yelp. A visit to Prestigious Pets' page on Yelp brought up a consumer alert warning Yelp visitors that Prestigious Pets "may be trying to abuse the legal system in an effort to stifle free speech..."
While Prestigious Pets' response may seem extreme, a victory could restrict the free speech of future online reviewers who would be hesitant to leave a negative review of their experience. Read more about this case.