Many people in Florida post reviews of different companies online. Some people also post on social media about the experiences they have had at different businesses. While writing honest reviews is allowed, people must take care to avoid defamatory comments online that could harm companies.
Defamation vs. reviews
A statement that is false or misleading that could harm the reputation of a business is defamatory. By contrast, an honest review simply tells a person’s experience at a business. For example, posting online that the service at a restaurant is slow or that the person doesn’t care for the food might be an honest review. By contrast, falsely telling a story that there were roaches in the person’s sandwich could qualify as defamation or libel because it could harm the business’s reputation and cause a drop in its revenue. When people spread false claims about a business, the company might have grounds to file a business torts lawsuit and pursue damages against them.
Example of defamation against a business
In one case out of Missouri, a woman who worked for Steak ‘N Shake was cooking a hamburger patty when she thought she saw maggots inside of the hamburger meat. She told her managers, who asked her to give them the patty so that they could inspect it. She refused and left the restaurant with the patty, telling customers inside that she had been fired because she insisted there were worms in the meat. While she said she was taking it to the health department, she instead stored it in her freezer at home and posted about it online, claiming that the restaurant had served the meat to customers. The post was widely shared, and Steak ‘N Shake sued for defamation. The restaurant won its lawsuit against the woman, and the judge issued a judgment of $70,000 in actual damages and $10,000 in punitive damages.
People need to be careful about what they post on social media. If their posts verge into libel or defamation, they could face lawsuits from businesses that are affected.