Petsitting Company Sues Couple Who Left Bad Yelp Review
A petsitting company, Prestigious Pets, is suing a Texas couple over a negative Yelp review. The company is seeking a staggering $200,000 to $1 million in damages for the negative feedback.
The couple, Robert and Michelle Douchouquette, hired the company to watch their dogs and beta fish while they were out of town in October 2015. But they weren’t happy with the service they were provided, and reviewed the company accordingly. According to Consumerist:
The pet-owners expressed their dissatisfaction with the service, taking issue with the company’s fees and billing, an apparent lack of updates from the sitter, the fact that the sitter didn’t leave the house keys behind as requested. The couple also claim that their fish might have received sub-optimal care in their absence.
The petsitting company claims that as a result of this review, it has lost business, received threats of harassment, and was left a “shell of its former success.” The plaintiffs further claim that as a result of the negative review they’ve experienced “numerous rape and death threats… in addition to other forms of harassment such as identity theft, impersonations, crank calls, etc.” The petsitting company is claiming that the Douchouquettes violated a non-disparagement clause in the contract they signed with the company. The lawsuit not only alleges that the couple violated that clause, but also defamation and business disparagement.
The court will have to determine whether or not the lawsuit brought by Prestigious Pets is frivolous. The attorney for the Douchouquettes is claiming that the lawsuit is a SLAPP (a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.) Essentially that would mean the only reason Prestigious Pets brought the suit is an attempt to get the Douchouquettes from posting negative things about the company.
Prestigious Pets’ Yelp page now has a warning to let reviewers know what the company is up to. It states:
You should know this business has issued legal threats and/or taken legal action against reviewers for exercising their free speech. If your review accurately describes your firsthand experience, you have a First Amendment right to express your opinion on Yelp.
We’ll have to see if the lawsuit is successful–$1 million really does seem a bit too high a price to pay for one bad Yelp review, especially when free speech considerations are taken into account.