Trashing Reception Hall Online May Be Libelous
(CN) - A man who posted a negative review online about an Oregon wedding venue must face defamation claims, the state appeals court ruled.
"Disaster!!!! Find a different wedding venue" was the title of the Google review Christopher Liles posted about Dancing Deer Mountain after attending a wedding there.
Carol Neumann runs Dancing Deer along with her husband, Timothy Benton. Tensions arose between the wedding party and Dancing Deer Mountain staff after they observed the guests violating the venue's alcohol policy. Things came to a head when the staff began asking guests to leave at the contracted end time of the reception, 8:30 p.m.
In his review, Liles called the evening "the worst wedding experience of my life" and said Neumann was "crooked, two-faced and rude to multiple guests."
Liles said the guests had been told they would be able to stay until 9 p.m. but that Neumann and her staff started showing them the door at 8:15.
"In my opinion, she will find a way to keep your $500 deposit and will try to make you pay even more," Liles added.
Neumann and Dancing Deer sued Liles for defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional interference with economic relations.
The Lane County Circuit Court struck the claims under Oregon's anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute, but the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed Wednesday.
"Specifically, if true, plaintiffs' evidence could permit a reasonable factfinder to find that defendant published false statements attributing to Neumann 'conduct and characteristics incompatible with the proper conduct of (her) lawful business' of operating a wedding venue, as well as a false statement alleging that Neumann is dishonest," Judge Erin Lagesen wrote for a three-person panel.
Affidavits from Neumann and two others at the wedding refuted Liles' online statements, the court found.
"In addition, a factfinder could finds that defendant's statement that Neumann is 'crooked,' apart from implying that she is not a wedding vendor who can be trusted, alleges that she is dishonest, and would be defamatory for that reason," Lagesen wrote.
Neumann also presented evidence of a downturn in business after Liles published his comments, according to the ruling.