Google Review Defamation Lawsuit


Online reviews are crucial for the growth and revenue of any business. Most customers read reviews to gauge the quality of a business.

While positive reviews can enhance your brand’s reputation, negative reviews can significantly harm your business. If a bad review has damaged your reputation, you might be able to take legal action against the reviewer and seek compensation for your losses.

Customers can leave online reviews based on the quality of products or services they receive. These reviews typically describe their experiences, helping potential customers make informed decisions. However, if a review is false or defamatory, a business can sue the reviewer for posting misleading or negative comments.


Here are a few examples of lawsuits related to defamatory Google reviews:

  1. D’Alessio v. Chowdhury (2023 ONSC 6075)

In this Ontario, Canada case, a law firm sued a former client who left a scathing Google review accusing the lawyers of incompetence, negligence, being unprofessional, untrustworthy, and “shady, pathetic and awful”. The court found the review met the criteria for defamation and awarded the law firm $20,000 in damages. The judge stated “A clear message must be made that such form of comments on an internet platform do not insulate someone from legal repercussions, such as an award of damages.”

  1. Dean v Puleio (2021 VCC 848)

A dentist in Melbourne, Australia successfully sued a former patient for defamation over negative Google reviews. The patient accused the dentist of being unprofessional, undermining, failing to diagnose illnesses, trying to overcharge, making “ludicrous” treatment suggestions, bullying and berating patients. The court found the reviews defamatory and awarded the dentist damages.

  1. Seventy Thirty Ltd v. Burki (2018 EWHC 2151)

A UK business sued an individual over defamatory reviews posted on Google and Yelp. The court ruled that the reviews, which accused the company of fraud, money laundering and other criminal acts, were defamatory and awarded damages to the business.

  1. Premier Finance Ltd v. Ginther (2022 BCSC 1487)

A British Columbia, Canada company successfully sued a “disgruntled customer” for $90,000 in damages over negative reviews on Google and other sites accusing the company of unethical business practices. The judge found the reviews contained false statements that damaged the company’s reputation.

These cases demonstrate that while negative reviews are common, if they contain provably false statements that damage a business’s reputation, the reviewer can potentially be sued for defamation, especially if they refuse to remove or correct the defamatory statements.

Consumer Review Fairness Act (CRFA)

The Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016 protects customers from unjust punishment and intimidation by businesses for posting honest reviews. According to the Act, it is illegal for a company to use a contract provision that:

  • Restricts a customer’s ability to review a company’s products, services, or conduct.
  • Imposes a penalty, fine, or fee against a customer for giving a review.
  • Requires customers to give up their intellectual property rights in the review.

This Act safeguards free speech and ensures transparency in consumer-business interactions. By protecting the authenticity of online reviews, the CRFA encourages honest dialogue about products and services, helping consumers make better decisions.

Moreover, this balance of power pushes businesses to maintain high standards since they can’t silence or penalize customers for truthful, unflattering reviews. This contributes to a healthier, more competitive market.

California’s Anti-SLAPP Statute

California’s anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) laws provide relief from SLAPP lawsuits.

The statute prevents people or businesses from using baseless lawsuits, courts, or threats of lawsuits to intimidate and silence customers or others from exercising their right to petition or free speech under the First Amendment. If a reviewer is sued for posting a bad review, they can petition the court to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that it lacks merit.

The Difference: Defamation vs. Bad Review

Defamation is a false statement presented as a fact that causes injury or damage to the reputation of a person, business, or entity. For example, if a statement is false and a business loses customers because of it, it may be considered defamation.

In contrast, a bad review is an honest opinion based on a customer’s experience. While it may be negative, it is not defamatory if it is truthful. Businesses must understand this distinction before pursuing legal action.

In conclusion, while businesses can take legal action against false and defamatory reviews, they must respect customers’ rights to share honest opinions. Laws like the Consumer Review Fairness Act and California’s anti-SLAPP statute protect these rights, ensuring a fair and transparent marketplace.

Defamation can appear as libel or slander, and it can harm any business.

On the other hand, a bad review is a negative review reflecting a customer’s poor experience with a company’s product or service. Negative reviews can be either good or bad. For example, an honest and unbiased review of a product explains the issues encountered while using it.

Types of Defamation

Defamation can be categorized into two types: libel and slander.

Libel involves false or defamatory statements made through writing, pictures, signs, print, or any other physical form of communication. Slander involves false or defamatory statements spoken aloud, typically through speech. Both libel and slander can damage a person’s reputation and are considered legal offenses. It’s crucial to understand the potential consequences of making false statements that can harm someone’s character or standing in the community.

How to Prove Defamation

To prove defamation, the plaintiff must demonstrate the following key elements:

  • The defendant made a false statement claiming to be factual.
  • The defendant communicated or published the false statement to a third party.
  • The statement was unprivileged or non-confidential.
  • The defamatory statement caused harm, injury, or other losses to the defamed party (plaintiff).

Considering Suing for a Bad Review?

In California, reviews are protected under the First Amendment Act or Anti-SLAPP statute. Therefore, before suing for a bad review, you should determine if the review qualifies as defamation or if it is protected by free speech under the First Amendment Act.

What Will You Need to Prove?

To sue for a negative review, you must prove that the statement qualifies as defamation. This requires that the statement meets the following criteria:

  • It was a false statement.
  • It was published to a third party (someone other than the person who brought the case).
  • It was made as a statement of fact, rather than opinion.
  • It injured the reputation of the defamed party.
  • It was not a privileged or confidential review.

For instance, imagine a disgruntled customer posts a review claiming that a restaurant has violated health codes by having pests in their kitchen. If this claim is entirely fabricated and the restaurant undergoes an inspection that finds the premises in exemplary condition, the restaurant owner may have grounds to claim the review is defamatory.

They would need to show that the false statement of fact—that the restaurant violated health codes—was published to third parties (potential customers reading the review) and caused the restaurant reputational damage and potential loss of business.

The review, being a false claim of fact rather than an opinion, is not protected under the First Amendment or Anti-SLAPP legislation.

In conclusion, while businesses can take legal action against false and defamatory reviews, they must respect customers’ rights to share honest opinions. Laws like the Consumer Review Fairness Act and California’s anti-SLAPP statute protect these rights, ensuring a fair and transparent marketplace.

This would meet the criteria for defamation and allow the restaurant to pursue legal action to protect its business interests.

Possible Damages

The following damages can be recovered in a defamation lawsuit:

  • Actual or compensatory damages for the real lost earnings caused by the false statement or defamation.
  • Non-economic damages to compensate for the company’s damaged reputation.
  • Mitigating damages to lessen the loss suffered by the company.
  • Punitive damages to further penalize the reviewer.

Hire a Trustworthy Lawyer

Your brand reputation is vital to your business’s success. A negative review can impact your business’s growth and revenue. Therefore, if you think a reviewer has made a defamatory statement against your business, it’s crucial to hire an experienced commercial litigation attorney immediately to protect your legal rights and help you seek justice.

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