Jane Perez, of Fairfax, Va., hired Washington, D.C.-based contractor Christopher Dietz to do some cosmetic work in June 2011 on a townhouse she bought. She quickly soured on Dietz and posted several critiques of his work on Yelp and Angie's List, alleging he billed her for work he never did and that jewelry went missing while he was the only other person with a key to the home, The Washington Post said Wednesday.
Dietz denied the allegations and sued in Virginia court to have the posts taken down and asked for $750,000, saying Perez had done considerable harm to his business by defaming him online.
A judge ruled Wednesday that Perez must remove posts claiming Dietz stole the jewelry -- he was never charged criminally -- and that he overbilled her. A separate suit Dietz filed over the unpaid bills was dismissed on a technicality before a judge could rule on the merits of the case, though in the online posts Perez implied she'd prevailed in a legal battle proving Dietz had overbilled her. The judge overseeing Dietz's suit barred those posts, too.
In Virginia, individuals can be found liable for defamation if they make or imply false factual statements about that harms a person's reputation, but expressions of opinions are generally found legal under the First Amendment, the Post said.