JUDGE RULES YELP REVIEW NOT COVERED BY FIRST AMENDMENT

online-review-monitoring-yelp The reviews are in — and they’ll cost a Staten Island woman $1,000. That’s how much a judge has ordered Emily Fanelli to pay for bashing the owner of a floor refinishing business as a “liar” and a “con artist” in scathing online reviews.”Are you kidding me? I’m sick,” the 67-year-old said after she found about the judge’s ruling from the Daily News. “People do reviews all the time. I shouldn’t have to pay anything,” she said. “It’s freedom of speech.” But in a ruling made public, Staten Island Civil Court Judge Philip Straniere said Fanelli’s rants on Yelp crossed the line.

Fanelli had hired the company, Mr. Sandless, to refinish the floors in her living room and dining room in February for $695. The company offers “affordable” floor refinishing with “green” chemicals, court papers say. Fanelli wasn’t happy with the finished product, or the “corrective actions” the company took after she complained.

In his ruling, the Judge said the review crossed the line from opinion to libel. “Terms such as ‘scam,’ ‘con artist’ and ‘robs’ imply actions approaching criminal wrongdoing rather than someone who failed to live up to the terms of a contract.”

“I’m not letting him get away with it,” she said. Norman Siegel, a noted civil rights attorney not involved in the case, said the ruling “could chill people from expressing their negative opinions.” “Opinions are protected speech,” Siegel said, and Fanelli’s comments — while extreme — are opinion. He encouraged Fanelli to appeal — and she said she’s planning to.

(Original Article Appearing in Avvo)

INTERESTING LAWSUIT OF THE MONTH-Jury Finds For 12-Year-Old In Closely Watched Hugging Case

13-hug-lawsuit.w1200.h630A New York case in which a 54-year-old woman sued her eight-year-old nephew for negligence, alleging that he acted unreasonably when he leaped into her arms after she showed up at his birthday party in 2011. According to the Westport News, the boy had just been given his first bicycle and was riding it around when his aunt showed up. “Auntie Jen! Auntie Jen!” he exclaimed. “I remember him shouting, ‘Auntie Jen I love you,” Auntie Jen testified, “and there he was flying at me.” She said she tried to catch the boy but they tumbled to the ground. Auntie Jen broke her wrist in the fall. She sued her nephew for negligence two years later.

Most jurisdictions have a statute providing that children under a certain age are not legally responsible for their actions. Exactly what that age is depends on the jurisdiction. Well, a broken wrist is significant, and was probably the bulk of the $127,000 Auntie Jen was seeking from the boy (or, more likely, from his dad and/or insurance company). Deliberation 25 minutes before the jury unanimously finding in favor of the boy.

Quote of the Month

We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding

TS Eliot