Fox5 Vegas had on their site a really bad story claiming that one can be sued for a bad reviews they leave on Yelp and other places. According to the story, which was spread throughout Vegas, the first Amendment “doesn’t protect you” from leaving bad reviews. This scared a lot of Yelpers in Vegas and reviewers who were concerned about their liability for leaving a bad review.
We were corrected by a Fox5 Anchor who told us that the story was originally from CBS5 in Phoenix and posted to their website. Was not about Las Vegas, although many people incorrectly shared as such.
The problem is that they didn’t do a lot of actual research and ignored the law in Nevada. According to Marc Randazza, one of the leading attorneys in first amendments completely disagreed and told PaceVegas that, “A Journalist’s job should be to inform, not make people dumber. This piece is really unfortunately the kind that makes people dumber. It is a common misconception that the First Amendment does not apply to private lawsuits. That was roundly rejected in New York Times v. Sullivan. With respect to these “non disparagement” clauses in contracts, they never hold up. There was an organization called “medical justice” for example, that was encouraging doctors and dentists to put those in their treatment agreements. Gone. Roca Labs (do some research on them) tried to make every one of its customers subject to such an agreement. Guess what? Not only have they never won, but the Federal Trade Commission is prosecuting them now, in part, because of these clauses.”
To explain simply:
1) First, Nevada has Anti-Slapp Laws which mean that anyone trying to sue you might have to face a hearing to prove they aren’t trying to use the courts to prevent free speech. If they lose, they can face stiff penalties and have to pay for YOUR attorney. Randazza has already successfully defended people already.
2) New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case that established the actual malice standard, which has to be met before press reports about public officials can be considered to be defamation and libel; and hence allowed free reporting of the civil rights campaigns. Has been used to defend many libel and defamation suits.
3) In the case of Roca Labs v. PissedConsumer, Roca Labs tried to prevent publishing of bad reviews based on a part of the agreement that didn’t allow bad reviews of “disparaging comments.” Even the FTC agreed this was a huge issue, and sued Roca Labs over this practice.
Randazza told us that the story was “egregiously inaccurate because we are in Nevada. Nevada has the strongest anti-slapp statute in the country, and it stands squarely in the way of anyone suing over this kind of thing.”
PaceVegas is the Publication of Everything About Las Vegas. Known for it’s hard hitting exposes of crimes, the underworld and everything interesting about Vegas, it’s won numerous awards from those who are scared to actually read the stories.