Fake Online Review DefamationA recent Supreme Court ruling out of Missouri upheld a jury ruling for $150,000 against a former partner who posted 3 fake reviews about his company on both Google and Yahoo. Although direct losses are impossible to prove on the Internet, this ruling changes the defamation game and shows an ease in the burden of proof for those who have been defamed.

Online Defamation

The two former partners, Hosto and Mitchell, formed two companies together and eventually the relationships ungraciously dissolved. One apparently bitter partner, Hosto, left three negative reviews about Mitchell's currently operating company, which led to a filed lawsuit against Hosto. Yahoo's information eventually revealed him as the author of the fake reviews, and Hosto confessed.

Court Eases Burden of Proof

The jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff's defamation case and awarded Mitchell's company, Firework's Restoration $1 in compensatory and $150,000 in punitive damages. Hosto attempted to appeal the award stating that Missouri law does not allow nominal damages, that the punitive damages were unconstitutionally large in comparison to the compensatory damages, and that Mitchell's company suffered no harm to their reputation. All of which the appeal's court rejected and the jury verdict stands.

Supreme "Courting" Google?

So what do these jury numbers mean to us? Although the court felt that Mitchell's company Fireworks Restoration suffered no tangible harm, they felt Hosto's defaming behavior was deserving of punishment. Although Internet damages are impossible to prove this ruling shows that the Courts are like-minded with Google's Quality Guidelines reiterating this behavior is not only unethical it is now punishable. Unscrupulous attorneys and reviewers alike should heed warning and be reminded of the penalties of online defamation and the ever-growing reward of genuine organic content, both online and on the bench.

Click here to learn more about Defamation or the differences between Libel and Slander.