Va. high court: Woman doesn’t have to remove online reviews

Thursday, January 3, 2013

RICHMOND, Va.  — The state’s highest court has reversed a judge’s ruling that had ordered a northern Virginia woman to remove negative online reviews of a home contractor.

On Dec. 28, the Supreme Court of Virginia threw out the preliminary injunction issued in Fairfax County Circuit Court against Jane Perez. The Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and Public Citizen had appealed the judge’s order on Perez’s behalf, saying it violated both the First Amendment and Virginia law.

Perez is being sued over comments she posted on the Internet regarding Dietz Development LLC, implying the contractor stole items from her home. The contractor is claiming the reviews posted on Yelp and Angie’s List were false and cost him $300,000 in business. He’s suing for defamation and is seeking $750,000.

Last month, a judge ordered  Perez to delete some accusations and barred her from repeating them in new posts while the lawsuit is pending.

In its one-page ruling, a three-judge panel of the state Supreme Court tossed out the preliminary injunction, saying it wasn’t justified and didn’t specify the time that it would be effective.

In a statement, ACLU Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg, who is representing Perez, said Dietz Development would still have the opportunity to try to prove in court that he was wronged by Perez’s speech, but “the court cannot suppress her speech in the meantime.”

A telephone message left at Dietz Development was not returned in time for this story.

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