Negative Online Review Results in Defamation Lawsuit
Last year, an archery company here in nearby Holly, MI resolved to revamp their website. They turned to Five Sparrows, a web design and marketing firm based in Heartland, MI.
Apparently, Jim Beasley, owner of Spot Shooter Archery, was not satisfied with the performance of the web design firm, telling the Oakland Press that customers could not access products and the owner could not change prices within the online store created by Five Sparrows.
After some obvious "back-and-forth", Beasley had enough and posted a negative review on G+ as well as sent a letter to the local B2B group that connected the two businesses in the first place. Five Sparrows' demand for a retraction was ignored and a defamation lawsuit followed.
The lawsuit, now assigned to Oakland Circuit Judge James Alexander, seeks damages in excess of the jurisdictional amount of $25,000. Beasley's lawyer is none other than our friend down the street here in Clarkston; Robert Kostin.
Although this case was initially assigned to Judge Leo Bowman, we suspect it was re-assigned to Judge Alexander with a determination this was business litigation belonging to the new Business Court.
This litigation will be interesting. In a defamation lawsuit, the plaintiff has the burden of proving that the statements made were false and were made intentionally or with reckless disregard for the truth. Truth, by the way, is a valid defense to a defamation suit.
We here at the Law Blogger anticipate that Mr. Kostin will file a motion for summary disposition to dismiss this case. And we like his chances as we feel this type of suit, always difficult to prove, is especially susceptible to dismissal given the facts of this case.
The Internet is nothing if not a massive functional forum for free speech. Reviews of local businesses are crucial to the hyper-local evolution of commerce and trade.
Take a look at Spot Shooter's web site for yourself to see whether Five Sparrows constructed a functioning web site. If you wanted to get outside today for the first day of bow season, would you be able to purchase your equipment on-line from Spot Shooter Archery? If not, whose fault would that be?