This is a review of an internet defamation lawsuit filed by a limousine company against a customer who published what the company considered libelous reviews of the company and its employees.
The customer had become angry after missing a flight due to the company’s slow service and had expressed her anger in a series of negative reviews on various websites where she accused the company of criminal activity.
The company contended the customer’s remarks were wholly untrue, and as a result of their publication caused substantial financial damages to their company.
The limousine company secured counsel and several days later filed an internet defamation lawsuit against the customer.
Statement of Facts…
Alta St. George was a limousine company which had been in business since 1995. The company was a small business owned and operated by two brothers. One of the brothers ran the business end of the company while the other served as the driver. The bulk of their business consisted of providing car service to business people who required transportation from their homes or business in the New York Tri State Area to LaGuardia and Kennedy Airports.
Susan Yost owned her own consulting firm which advised major corporations in cost cutting and downsizing operations. Yost had recently been contacted by a multi-national company out of San Francisco.
Like many other companies at the time, the company was losing money and was looking for ways to trim costs so as to be more competitive in the workplace. The company was inviting bids from various consulting firms around the country. Yost was enthusiastic about making her presentation and bid to them on December 28th, 2010.
Yost contacted Alta St. George and hired them to take her to LaGuardia Airport on December 28th for a flight leaving at 3:45 p.m.
St. George told Yost they would pick her up at 1:30 p.m., allowing for ample time to travel to the airport. The day of the flight Yost waited for the St. George’s driver to arrive. Yost began to be concerned when it became 1:45 p.m. and the driver still hadn’t arrived.
Yost called St. George several times, each time being forwarded to St. George’s voicemail. The time was now 2:15 p.m. and there still was no sight of the car. Yost continued to call St. George leaving messages of a more frantic tone each time she called. Unable to reach anyone at the company she tried texting. All her attempts at reaching a live person at St. George were futile.
Finally, at 2:45 p.m. the car appeared. By this time Yost was livid and communicated her displeasure to the driver. The driver didn’t seem to understand her and mumbled something about heavy traffic. From there the driver attempted to reach the airport in time for Yost’s flight. Unfortunately, he arrived at LaGuardia at 3:15 p.m.
By the time Yost cleared security it was 3:50 p.m. and her flight had already taken off. Knowing she would never make the meeting, she called California and left a message. She was sure it would probably go unnoticed. Yost hired a cab from the airport and returned to her office. She was exhausted and quite unhappy.
She decided to go online and seek out limousine review sites which reviewed local companies. She found several and at each one entered the same review of St. George.
The review read:
DON’T USE THIS SERVICE!!! They are a bunch of CRIMINALS!! They STEAL MONEY FROM THEIR CUSTOMERS!! They caused me to miss a very important flight. I hired them to take me to the airport. They showed up late and I missed my flight.
As a result I missed an important business meeting in California. The guy who picked me up couldn’t even speak English. This company probably hired him as an illegal alien!! If you want to be conned then try this service. You better believe it will be a day I won’t soon forget. HORRIBLE!!
Several days later St. George was alerted by a business associate about the extremely critical reviews he came across on the Internet. St. George contacted their company’s attorney to see if there was anything they could do about what they felt were untruths in the review. They said the reviews were undoubtedly going to hurt their business, as many people seeking limousine services first read reviews before deciding on a company.
In response, St. George’s attorney asked them several questions:
- “Have you, your brother or your company ever been convicted of a crime?” (Both brothers answered “No”)
- “Have you, your brother or your company ever stolen any money?” (Again, “No”)
- “Are you or your brother illegal aliens?” (“No”)
- “Were you and your brother U.S. citizens at the time you drove Ms. Yost to the airport?” (“Yes”)
Their attorney then advised them they had a legitimate claim against Yost. The attorney said she believed St. George would prevail in an internet defamation lawsuit and explained why.
She said, “The law is clear when it comes to internet defamation as well as other types of defamatory statements.” She went on to explain there are two categories of defamation. Traditionally, defamation via the spoken word is considered Slander, whereas defamation via the published word is considered Libel.
She went on to say:
“In defamation cases truth is an absolute defense. That is why I asked you those questions. For if you answered in the affirmative to either or all of the questions, Ms. Yost would have committed neither slander or libel. There would be no defamation.
To commit slander or libel against another person, the spoken or written word must contain statements which are untrue. Not only must the statements be untrue, but to prevail in a lawsuit against the person who uttered or published the slander or libel, the injured party must be able to prove they suffered some form of damage as a result of that verbal or published word.
In your case, it is now clear you are not ‘a bunch of criminals’, nor are either of you illegal aliens. Working as an illegal alien, like theft, would be a crime.
Although it may be difficult to prove to the court the amount of damages the defaming reviews cost you, the court may take into consideration the circumstances of the defamatory publications, and on the strength of the statements alone decide you most likely suffered damages.
I am convinced you have a strong case against Susan Yost and I advise you to allow me to proceed in filing suit.”
On behalf of the Alta St. George Limousine Company, and the owners Alvin and Cyrus Vostok, the attorney filed suit against Susan Yost alleging Internet Defamation through the publication of libelous statements.
Yost was served with the internet defamation lawsuit. She conferred with her own attorneys and after being told she had little or no defense, decided to settle the lawsuit for an undisclosed sum.
- Defamation comes in basically two forms. The first is slander by the spoken word, and the second is libel through the published word. Defamation only occurs when the spoken or written words are untrue and a person has been damaged by their verbal or written untruths.
- Often, when a person is defamed, it is difficult to prove the manner or amount in which he was damaged. In many cases, the court will look past that inability to forecast an amount of damages and render a decision based solely on the defamation.
*This case example is for educational purposes only. It is based on actual events although names have been changed to protect those involved. Any resemblance to real persons or entities is purely coincidental.
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