Hotel Files $74,500 Defamation Suit Against Anonymous TripAdvisor Reviewer

The relative anonymity of online review sites makes it tempting to vent one’s anger toward a company in an over-the-top way, but does the use of a screen name prevent you from being held liable for making knowingly false claims? One hotel in Oregon says no, and is suing an unknown TripAdvisor reviewer to prove that point.

The Oregonian reports that the hotel filed the suit against a defendant currently only known as “12Kelly,” after he or she posted a scathing review that the owners say was “full of lies.”

According to the lawsuit, the negative review – which has since been removed from the site – calls the hotel’s breakfast and rooms “nasty” and states the laundry and housekeeping staff are “either high or drunk.” The review also claimed the front desk employee had phone sex with someone and the owner of the inn smokes weed.

“Defendant made the statements deliberately, maliciously, and willfully with the specific intent to cause damage to the character and reputation of [the hotel],” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit claims, among other things, that the reviewer misrepresented that he or she lives in Prescott, AZ, and stayed at the inn in March.

In March, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that the operators of a wedding venue could sue someone over a negative review because the reviewer didn’t just give an opinion in the review, but made material statements of fact in the review that could be proven or disproven at trial.

That would likely be the hotel owner’s argument in this case, as certain aspects of the review — whether or not the employee was having phone sex or if the owner smokes marijuana — are statements of fact, unlike saying “the decor was ugly” or “the food tasted bad.”

Similar lawsuits, or threats of lawsuits, against consumers who post negative online reviews have garnered attention recently.

Just last week, a federal court in Utah issued a default judgement in favor of consumers who were slapped with a $3,500 “non-disparagement fee” from an e-retailer after posting something negative about a failed transaction. Days later the company defended its fee saying the court’s ruling didn’t really count because mail about the case was sent to the wrong address.

And earlier this month, a negative Amazon review posted in Sept. 2013 resulted in the threat of a libel lawsuit for one Florida consumer.

Lincoln City hotel sues for defamation after anonymous person posts scathing TripAdvisor review [The Oregonian]