NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Staten Island woman has been slapped with a fine for a review she left on the online review website Yelp.
So what did she say that crossed the line from a customer complaint to legal action?
As CBS2’s Elise Finch reported, Emily Fanelli is not a happy customer.
In February, she hired Mr. Sandless of Staten Island to refinish her hardwood floors without traditionally sanding and use of the chemical polyurethane.
Fanelli said instead of the shiny acrylic coating she was promised, she got dull, discolored floors.
After failing to resolve the issue with the company’s owner, Matt Gardiner, Fanelli filed a lawsuit and complained about him and his company on the Internet.
“I went on Yelp and I said ‘beware, do not use Matt Gardiner, Mr. Sandless.’ That he’s a scam, he’s a liar,” she said.
Gardiner responded with a lawsuit of his own.
“I believe anybody can say anything they want about a company, that’s true. Where she went too far is when she attacked me personally,” he said.
A judge determined that Fanelli’s repeated use of the terms “scam,” “liar,” “con artist,” and “robs,” on Yelp and other Internet review sites constituted defamation, not protected speech.
The judge ordered Fanelli to pay Gardiner $1,000 in damages.
“I’m not giving him his $1,000. I don’t care what he does, he’s not getting his $1,000. So you know what, the judge can give it to him,” Fanelli said. “Yelp could have flagged it, so if Yelp did not protect him then Yelp allows this. So why should I be in trouble? So if I’m in trouble then legally I feel I should have a lawsuit against Yelp and all the companies that allow reviews online.”
In a statement, a spokesperson with Yelp said “We frequently find that a better course of action, rather than suing your customers, is publicly responding to a critical review in the same forum.”
Since that didn’t happen, Fanelli said she’ll appeal the judge’s decision.