Dentist must pay Legal Fees in anti-SLAPP suit

Posted on Media Post, a California dentist is ordered to pay $81,000 in legal fees to Yelp after he sued Yelp over disparaging comments made by a critic on the services review site.


Yelp is a services review site where user can post reviews of businesses from restaurants to attorneys (I love all my clients very very much btw).  Reviews can anonymously post anything they wish any business on this site.  In general, Yelp tends to be fair.  I have been involved in one incident where a company posing as a reviewer posted negative reviews about their rival company.  Upon learning of the situation, Yelp removed the negative postings in a timely manner.

In this case, a reviewer posted a negative review stating their son was lightheaded after receiving anesthesia at the dentist office, and stating he received a filling containing lead.  The dentist alleged emotional distress from the review.  Unable to get to the reviewer, the dentist went after Yelp.  The California court of appeals dismissed the case under California’s Anti-SLAPP law.

What is a SLAPP Lawsuit?

SLAPP is an acronym meaning “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation”.  Originally it referred to lawsuits by  individuals, companies, and organizations for defamation and other suits intended to intimidate individuals from coming forward and criticizing them or their activities.  Often times, these lawsuits had little merit, but were designed to cause defendants to incur large legal fees making them less likely to say anything negative in the first place.   In order to prevent SLAPP lawsuits, states enacted “Anti-SLAPP” legislation which are supposed to limit SLAPP lawsuits by increasing their likelihood of dismissal before trial, providing for a quick and inexpensive dismissal to SLAPP lawsuits.  They mostly by shifting burdens of proof.  In anti-SLAPP motion, all the defendant has to do is show that the activity complained against was consitutionally protected, namely Free Speech.  The burden shifts to the plaintiff to show that they have a more than reasonable chance of prevailing.  If the judge denies the anti-SLAPP motion, the defendant can appeal, but if it is dismissed, the defendant is entitled to legal fees from the plaintiff.  In general, the law makes SLAPP lawsuits an economically negative option.

In this case, because the lawsuit was dismissed vis-a-vis an anti-SLAPP motion from Yelp, the dentist plaintiff must pay Yelp the legal fees incurred in defending against the suit, $81,000 here.  The irony is the initial legislation was supposed to protect the little guy from attacks by the big guy, but the law is a double edged sword which supposed to affect everyone equally.  Here the little guy has to pay the big guy $81,o00.  Legislator beware.

About James Skyles

James Skyles is the Owner and Principal Attorney at Skyles Law Group, LLC. He is a 2008 graduate of Ave Maria School of Law, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Prior to graduation from Ave Maria, James earned his bachelors degree from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. James also holds a Certificate in Advanced European and Global Practice(Summa cum Laude) from Central European University in Budapest Hungary. Prior to founding Skyles Law Group, James was the General Counsel for the Franklin Center for Government Integrity, a nationally recognized pioneer in the field of online journalism. James is licensed attorney in State of Illinois, and is a member of the American Bar Assocation, the Illinois State Bar Association, The Chicago Bar Assocation, the Asian American Bar Association, and the Phi Alpha Delta National Law Fraternity. Aside from his legal work, James also has a passion for Italian gelato, and creates recipes as a hobby. He plans on publishing a book on the history of ice cream.

Posted on May 18, 2011, in Anti-SLAPP, Articles, defamation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Reviews can anonymously post anything they wish any business on this site. In general, Yelp tends to be fair.

  2. Exactly what was we looking for.thanks a lot for sharing these info’s here.will look after for some more updates.

  3. I’ve read about this case on more than one website. It’s amazing, with how much information available about SLAPP lawsuits that these companies actually pursue them. Do they think they can get away with it, or are they finding lawyers who are ignorant (or maybe to eager to sue) of the consequences of such frivolous cases?

  4. Understand to write himself, the write-up from yet another source

  1. Pingback: QUESTION: Can I be sued for what I post on Yelp? « Ask A Cyber Lawyer

  2. Pingback: Obsidian Finance Group v. Cox- A Case every blogger should know. « Ask A Cyber Lawyer

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