Thinking of leaving a negative review? Think again…

negative-review

In the recent case of Bussey Law Firm PC and another v Page [2015] EWHC 563 (QB) (6 March 2015), the High Court has awarded £50,000 damages to a US law firm and its principal after finding that a false posting on the firm’s Google Maps profile was defamatory.

Whilst admitting that the posting of the negative review of the firm had come from his Google account, the Defendant denied that he was responsible for it. Instead, in defending the case against him, the Defendant proposed various hypothetical explanations for the defamatory wording, which the Court held, on balance, to be extremely improbable. For example, it was held to be extremely unlikely that anyone had successfully hacked into the Defendant’s account; furthermore, there was no evidence that anyone had done so nor any apparent reason why anyone with a grudge against the Claimants would do so.

The Judge commented that it was unclear why the Defendant wished to attack the Claimants, although the most likely explanation appeared to be financial. In any event, the High Court ruled it was not necessary to reach a conclusion on the motive and the awarded the US lawyer £45,000 damages, taking particularly into account the impact upon him personally, and the need for clear vindication. The Court stated that it would have awarded a further £25,000 to the firm but, due to a voluntary cap on damages of £50,000, this was the total sum to be recovered. The Court did not, therefore, make any additional award for punitive damages, although it indicated it would have been prepared to do so.

With the increase use of seemingly anonymous social media, this case serves as a reminder to those pursuing an alterior motive by leaving a negative review. It will also inspire confidence for businesses looking for reparation for damage caused by former “disgruntled” customers. For further details on this case or to discuss any associated matter, do get in touch on matthew.howat@hasolicitors.co.uk.

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