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The Monday Morning Report
January 12, 2015

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Good morning!


Well we survived the first full week of the new year.  My children have started a countdown to the first day of spring.  The Detroit Tigers report to spring training camp in just 30 days! Last year, as much as we felt prepared for winter, the extreme cold and snow caught all of us a bit by surprise.  This year, we vowed to be even more ready.  We stocked up on salt, firewood, gas for the generator and warm clothes.  The tractor sits ready to plow the driveway.  And here we are, having yet to have much more than a dusting of snow so far. In this week's report, we discuss the unexpected perils of online reviews.  I hope you have a great week.

CAN YOU BE SUED FOR A BAD REVIEW?

Online reviews have resulted in unintended consequences for some.

by Attorney Sean O'Bryan

I had a client ask me an interesting question last week: “Can I be sued for leaving a bad review about a restaurant we visited and didn’t like?”

At first blush - I said of course not.  But then I figured I had better look into this a bit further.  And much to my surprise - the answer wasn’t so simple. You possibly could be sued or otherwise held liable for posting a negative online review - even if it is factually accurate.  In fact, people have, and have lost in court on this issue.  Let me explain.

In a nutshell - because online reviews have become so crucial for some businesses - a few have resorted to placing sneaky provisions in their small print that can contractually prohibit you from posting a negative online comment about that company - or face a fine or worse.  A few others businesses, upset that an online review rose to the level of being libelous, have sued the person who made the review.  This problem has become bad enough that one state passed a new law effective January 1, 2015 that stops companies from including such a prohibition against truthful online reviews. That law is being called the "Yelp Law” after the website that rates restaurants and similar businesses with the help of online reviews by actual consumers.

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